Is 'pop rocks' meth coming to our playgrounds?
Chances are, the candy your kids get their hands on is just candy.
Different versions of a cyber-rumor have been been landing in local inboxes throughout 2007 about a flavored form methamphetamine called "strawberry quick" named for the flavored milk drinks or "strawberry meth."
The premise of the e-mail campaign is to warn parents about a candy-flavored drug being handed out on playgrounds to get kids hooked on the dangerous drug.
Here's one version of the frequently-forwarded e-mail, which had the subject line "Crystal Meth -- very important":
The Ugliest Drug Marketing Scheme Ever
SEND THIS TO AS MANY PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS and PEOPLE WHO KNOW PARENTS AS YOU CAN.
A very scary thing is going on in the schools right [now]. There is a type of crystal meth going around that looks like strawberry pop rocks. It smells like strawberry also and it is being handed out to kids in school yards in AR (Arkansas).
I'm sure it will make its way around the country. Kids are ingesting this thinking it is candy and being rushed off to the ER in dire condition.
It also comes in chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange. It looks just like pop rocks. Please instruct children to not accept candy that looks like this even from a friend and to take any that they may have to a teacher, principal, etc. Pass this around it could save some family a lot of heartache! They call it strawberry meth or strawberry quick.
"I don't know -- did you go to Snopes at all on that?" Clay County Sheriff Randy Krukow said, referring to snopes.com, a site that serves as an urban myth watch dog.
The candy meth e-mail closes with the contact information for "Special Agent Todd V. Coleman" of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Snopes.com checked with the agent using a number circulated in the e-mail. Snopes researchers posted the same voice message we heard with a phone call Tuesday afternoon.
"You've reached Special Agent Todd Coleman, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If you're calling regarding crystal meth information, that information is false and inaccurate. It was not distributed or originated by this office. Otherwise leave a message."
It's true that some drug dealers sell colored versions of crystal methamphetamine. Speculation that sweetened versions of the drug are out there to hook kids have been harder to verify, according to the Web site.
Krukow also is president of the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association. He isn't aware of any candy-flavored drugs being marketed in Iowa. He also thinks the concept may have been "dreamed up" in urban areas. He said he gets about a dozen e-mail scams each week.
"We got word of it a year ago," Krukow said, as he turned his attention to some real concerns. "We're seeing the meth ice, cocaine and of course marijuana -- we're seeing an increase in that stuff."
But most of that is coming from over the Iowa border -- deputies have only discovered seven methamphetamine labs this year in Clay County. Though reporting practices may vary Krukow estimates the amount of home-grown methamphetamine is down 70 percent in Iowa. A restriction on the sale of certain cold medicines in Iowa is one reason. Agri-businessmen have also been putting locks on anhydrous ammonia tanks. Both steps cut off a key ingredient in the recipe for cooking methamphetamine.
Even the potential for a dangerous mix of drugs, candy and kids has some lawmakers concerned. In April, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California introduced legislation to penalize drug dealers who market "candy-flavored meth to children."
"This bill will send a strong and clear message to drug dealers -- if you target our children by peddling candy-flavored drugs, there will be a heavy price to pay," Feinstein said, in a press release posted on the senators' official Web sites. "Flavored meth -- with child-friendly names like Strawberry Quick -- is designed to get people to try it a few times. It's all about hooking young people and we have to stop this practice before it grows any further.
Feinstein said the legislation will increase the criminal penalties for anyone who markets candy-flavored drugs to our youth -- by imposing on them the same enhanced penalties applied to dealers who distribute drugs to minors.
"New techniques and gimmicks to lure our kids into addiction are around every corner," Grassley said in the same news release. "Candy-flavored meth is the latest craze used by drug dealers. Research has shown time and again that if you can keep a child drug-free until they turn 20, chances are very slim that they will ever try or become addicted. This makes it all the more important that we put an end to the practice of purposely altering illegal drugs to make them more appealing to young people."
The senators' statement went on to say the Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy have issued warnings on the trend of flavored methamphetamine. The claim that the drug is actually being sold in flavored versions is "a subject of some dispute," as Snopes puts it.
"Statements about seizures of flavored meth might have been based solely on the drug's brightly-hued appearance and not its actual taste," the Web site's author wrote.
Krukow also was skeptical about the urgency expressed in the e-mail campaign.
"Every day in America, 13,000 kids try marijuana for the first time -- every day in America. So yes… you need to be aware of it," Krukow said of the candy meth concern. "But parents need to be aware of drugs period. It's not only the illegal drugs, but also we're worried about the pharmaceuticals in the medicine cabinet or huffing on the old paint can or whipped cream can. What it comes down to is: If people want to get high, I guess they're going to do it, but communication is still the best policy with your family.