By Jacob Sullum
On Friday I received a "legislative alert" from the Texas PTA about "a new drug known as 'strawberry quick'" that "smells like strawberry" and "is being handed out to kids in school yards." The message itself has a distinctive odor, more reminiscent of a barnyard than of a berry patch:
There is a very scary thing going on in the schools right now that we all need to be aware of.
There is a type of crystal meth going around that looks like strawberry pop rocks (the candy that sizzles and "pops" in your mouth). It also smells like strawberry and it is being handed out to kids in school yards. They are calling it strawberry meth or strawberry quick.
Kids are ingesting this thinking that it is candy and are being rushed off to the hospital in dire condition. It also comes in chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange.
Please instruct your children not to accept candy from strangers—not even candy that looks like this from a friend (who may have been given it and believed it is candy). They should take any of this "candy" that they may have to a teacher, principal or parent immediately.
Pass this email on to as many people as you can (even if they don't have kids) so that we can raise awareness and hopefully prevent any tragedies from occurring.
A person of ordinary intelligence, even if he did not know about the extensive debunking of the "candy-flavored meth" story that has been done by Snopes.com, by Bob Curley at Join Together, and even by the Drug Enforcement Administration, would have to wonder: How does a drug dealer benefit by tricking little kids into thinking that methamphetamine is candy? How likely is it that a sixth-grader, having been "rushed off to the hospital in dire condition" after ingesting "strawberry quick," will want to repeat the experience? Assuming that such (unreported and undocumented) incidents are an unintended result of a marketing strategy aimed at people who know they are buying speed, how much sense does it make to flavor a drug that people typically snort or smoke?
The Texas PTA is not alone in passing along these rumors. The legislative alert includes a link to an undated Fox News story that asks:
Have you heard of "Strawberry Quick?" It's not a kid's drink—it's a kid's methamphetamine. Drug dealers mix meth with Kool-Aid in an attempt to make it look and taste better. And again, there’s the snappy name. While Strawberry Quick hasn’t made a big splash in Dallas [thanks to the Texas PTA's vigilance, presumably], it is gaining ground in other parts of the country....Anyone who’s seen a meth addict, with their scabbed skin and rotting teeth, knows what a con "Strawberry Quick" is.
The Fox story quotes a DEA agent in Dallas who confirms that drug dealers are "looking for a new consumer" and that "good marketing" helps but who does not actually mention strawberry meth (let alone "chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange" meth). The January issue of the DEA newsletter Microgram noted that "'flavored methamphetamine' (most notably 'strawberry meth') has received extensive and often alarmist coverage in the mass media over the past two years." But with the exception of a single grape-smelling sample tested by a DEA lab in late 2008, which included "tiny purple specks" that may have been "bits of a grape flavored candy or lollipop," the agency has not been able to confirm the existence of anything like a bright pink, strawberry-flavored substance produced by mixing meth with drink powder, let alone found that it is "gaining ground" anywhere. Naturally, that fact has not stopped members of Congress from trying to ban it.
According to the government-sponsored Monitoring the Future Study (PDF), by the way, meth use among eighth-graders has been falling since the survey started asking about it in 1999.
By Jacob Sullum