“Back in 1984 is when I first experienced crystal,” says Big Coop, a self-proclaimed “professional tweaker” who “robbed banks on the side.” This go-hard white boy and mountain of a man, is now locked up in the feds for those same telltale bank jobs. In prison, the hulking-tattooed-convict is usually a pretty mellow dude, except for when he is cracking heads that is. But on the street, the dude was tripping. I’m talking certifiable meth monster.
The meth scene has traditionally been associated with white, male blue collar workers. But in this new millennium- the cheap, easy to make and instantly addictive crystal meth is burning a hole through America. A longtime biker staple and west coast mainstay, meth is now surging across the nation. But this homegrown drug epidemic didn’t sprout from any foreign shores like the southeast Asian heroin triads or the Colombian cocaine cartels. Meth was born and raised right here in the good U.S. of A. And it originated and has long been reported as the dominant drug problem in the San Diego, California area, which happens to be the hometown and stomping grounds of Big Coop.
“San Diego I would say is the Meth capitol,” says Cooper. “Where I am from you can buy it almost anywhere. If you know the slang words people will know you’re cool and you’ll have it. If you walk up to somebody who you think looks cool and say, ‘Dude, where can I get some shit?’ More likely, you’ll have it within minutes.”
Meth also called crystal, go fast, crank, or dope. But Big Coop says, “The two main hip words are tweak and shit.” If you go anywhere in sunny southern California crystal will be around. Coop elaborates, “In North County, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, Encinitas, and Cardiff by the Sea the tweakers rule.”
Big Coop admits to snorting, slamming, and smoking meth. “Back in 1984, I snorted it up to about 1988, then I experienced slamming it, which is the ultimate. I’ve never been so out of it. The rush is so intense.” He says in 1993, he was introduced to smoking meth. “This is where they get calling it shit. Because that is exactly what it taste like.” The Coopster claims to be an equal opportunity methhead though, alternating between snorting, slamming, and smoking. “I’ve been going through the different ways of doing it. It depends on the type of people I am around at the time. I don’t want to be slamming around people that don’t. It just doesn’t make good relations.” And that is a perfect example of tweaker etiquette.
The history of meth is a storied one. It first appeared in medical literature as far back as 1887. Propagated as a Victorian cure for narcolepsy. Years later it was being prescribed by doctors in the U.S. and abroad in an aspirin-like version as a bronchial aid. In World War II, it was widely used as a stimulant by Allied soldiers to stay awake while on duty. This led to the more modern use of meth by bikers, and long-haul truckers, or workers in any occupation that demanded long hours, mental alertness, and physical endurance. It was either snorted or ingested in a pharmaceutical tablet-form.
For a long time, stretching from the 60s to the 80s, meth was largely underground, and referred to as crank, because it was hidden in the crank cases of motorcycle engines. It was largely a biker drug. Brown colored, harsh on the sinuses, and crude. But finally in the 80s, a smokeable version appeared and thus was born the age of the tweakers. A once largely underground scene with limited cooks and chefs as they are called has exploded. The internet boasts over 300 websites, which have detailed instructions on how to obtain all the ingredients necessary for making meth. Most of these fixings can be picked up at the local drugstore and home-supply shop. And recipes on how to cook it all up are all over the internet.
Big Coop says, that meth “looks like a bunch of shattered glass. But then again it depends on where and who you get it from. Different people make it different ways.” The main ingredient is ephedrine, which is found in decongestants like Sudafed arid Drixoral. This substance is easily whipped up in mom and pop shops, kitchens, and makeshift labs. Battery acid, liquid fertilizer, iodine, drain cleaner, lye, paint thinner, lantern fuel, and anti-freeze are the toxic solvents, which the nonprescription cold drugs are cooked up in. The cooking process is a volatile one though, where explosions are known to occur. The compounds used, can burn your skin off like acid. Many cooks have been burned or worse, they have been killed, when their labs have blown up.
And the police hate these labs also, wearing full-body hazmat protection suits when they raid these toxic-waste sites. The type of meth varies with the cook and solvents used. “I’ve had red, yellow, green, blue,” Big Coop says. “It’s all in how and what they rinse it with. The quality of the chemicals.”
And prices vary also. Depending on the quality or who you know. “You can get a quarter gram for $20, but you try not to go that route, because you get a better deal buying like an eight ball, which in some places you can get for $150,” Big Coop says. “If you don’t know anybody though, you can end up paying $100 for a gram.” That’s the break for being a tweaker.
So basically, the profit for a cook is 100%. No overhead, no Colombians or triads to pay off, and the product can be made in the household’s kitchen. If you don’t mind turning your kitchen into a potential disaster that is or toxic-waste dump. Coop says, “The best meth was right after it was finished being made. You can’t get no better.” He concludes though, “You have to be careful on the amount you do, because some is more potent then others. Depends on the qualities of chemicals being used. Everybody’s recipe is different.”
The effects of meth have been described as euphoric. It brings on a feeling exhilaration and a sharpening of focus with occasional episodes of sudden and violent behavior, intense paranoia, and visual and auditory sensations. That is why it is called tweaking, because people on meth are literally tweaking out of their minds. “It was such an exciting high,” Big Coop says. “Everything was at a fast pace. The buzz was intense, full of energy, your mind constantly on go, go, go.”
If you did a little line, you would be good for at least 2 or 3 hours, and I’ve got to say its the best weight loss program around,” relates Coop. “You never have an appetite and don’t even think about sleeping. When I was slamming I once stayed up for 26 days.”
Medical reports claim meth has a neurotoxin effect on users, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin. It causes increased heart rates and blood pressure, and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain. Short term effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, and aggressiveness. But for real- who’s worried about a little chemicals in the bloodstream, not Big Coop.
The Coopster says, “I became a tweaking bum. You talk about seeing shit, everything that wasn’t supposed to be there was. Your mind would definitely play tricks on you after about a week of tweaking.” And when you get a bunch of tweaking methheads together- it’s not a matter of what they’re going to do, it’s a matter of what they’re waiting to do. It’s like Big Coop says, “Even if nothing is happening, as far as, activity, you still don’t want to sleep for the simple reason that you might miss out on something that might happen. It’s like the crowd of people I hung with. We were always together waiting for the same thing, something, anything to happen.”
According to published numbers there are almost 10 million who’ve tried meth in this country. That is a hell of a lot of people tweaking out. Big Coop relates, “Everybody and their mothers are tweaking in San Diego. I honestly believe it’s the way of life there.” And apparently it’s becoming the way of life in other parts of the country also. Meth is the new drug of choice for white, middle-class and rural America. It makes crack look like baby food. There is even a top 40 song about meth that was in regular rotation on MTV a couple years back.
I wish I could get back there/some place back there
smilin in the pictures you would take/doing crystal meth
It will lift you up until you break/it won’t stop
I won’t come down/I keep stock
With a tic tock rhythm and a bump for a drop
Then I bumped up/I took the hit I was given
Then I bumped again/I bumped again
-Semi, Charmed Kinda Life, 3rd Eye Blind
“All in all, my life has been pretty good,” Big Coop says, “except for holding a job. After being on meth for as long as I’ve been you don’t want to work. Once you become a tweaker, all your ambition is gone. Your mind is going 1,000 RPM’s, but as soon as, you decide to do something, you’re over it just as fast.” That is the price to pay if you want to be a tweaker and meth monster extraordinaire.
But it’s not like its all bad. Doing meth for weeks has its benefits. “By the end of the week you’re basically starting your hallucinations. Some people are ready for bed. Well, those who can’t hang with the big dawgs. Myself, I’m a 3 (weeker) tweaker,” Coop says, with a smile. His piercing blue eyes staring right through you, permanently frazzled from use of meth abuse. He continues, “Most people are mentally ran down, tired of it. But if you are a true tweaker you don’t let the small shit bother you.” Yeah- the small shit- like motherfucking heart attack. But that is why Big Coop is the Meth Monster.
On of the big side effects of meth is the paranoia experienced by users. Crystal can over-excite the central nervous system to the point where a user feels paranoid, fearful, and anxious. Heavy users can experience psychotic episodes, medical jargon for losing touch with reality. Big Coop relates an episode, “I had just finished doing a blast, and I had to go pick someone up from the airport. Anyway was a little late, so I decided to drive faster. I got pulled over for doing by the police for doing 11O mph, man I was zooming out of my head, sweat pouring and my wife beater soaking wet.”
He continues. “I know I had to look guilty as hell when the man came to my window, and asked for my license, which I didn’t have. So he tells me to get out of the car, searches it and finds nothing. Luckily, I was carrying my stash inside the bottom cuff of my pants leg, but the police didn’t know that, so he let me go with a speeding ticket. But I was paranoid as fuck. The whole time I was thinking of just running off the highway. Leaving the car and all. Fuck it, you know.”
Methheads are known to be super paranoid, and have a tendency to compulsively clean and groom, and repetitively sort and disassemble objects, such as cars, and other mechanical devices. Like this one tweaker Big Coop knew. “He was always taking apart his vacuum cleaner. Swearing that there were bugs in it. He said, he could hear the coded transmissions, and that big brother was onto him. So we would take apart the vacuum cleaner, literally hundreds of times, and spend all night putting it back together again.”
It seems that meth permanently hijacks user’s judgment. The meth fiend wallow in a binge-tweak cycle, which encompasses rage, delusions, and spontaneous violence. Meth, which some consider a mixture of laundry detergent, and lighter fluid can lead to paranoia, or even worst wave of lurid crimes.
Big Coop is in federal prison for robbing banks. He was convicted on five counts. But he wasn’t robbing the banks, because of his meth addiction. He was robbing banks for the buzz. “When I started robbing banks the buzz was out of this world,” he says. “It was like I was unstoppable. I had no worries, money to spend, and tweak to do.”
When asked if the bank robberies were meth induced Big Coop replies, “yes and no. Yes because, I’ve been using meth for almost 20 years. No, because I wasn’t robbing banks for money to spend on tweak. I’ve always had all the shit I wanted.” Big Coop says, he robbed banks, because “he found out how easy it was.” He relates how he would “Meet the newspaper guy when they filled the machines at like 4 a.m. just to see if my picture was in the paper.” Tweaking out of his mind, of course.
But tweaking wasn’t the best way to rob banks as Big Coop explains, “My first bank I robbed, that was pretty sketchy. Well, I didn’t actually get to rob that one. I was all mind set to do the job, but when I walk in, there was like five tellers and no customers, and all the tellers turn their heads and look at me.”
He continues, “I didn’t know what to do, so I continued to the counter, and asked for nickel, penny, and quarter rolls. I guess the way I looked (all tweaked out) caused panic, because the guard approached me and asked if everything was alright.”
Big Coop sits there all casual like, smoking a cigarette in his too big hands, pausing for a moment and looking out the barred window of the prison cell. This huge, almost child-like, tattooed-convict seems to be reflecting, but then he turns with his two blue eyes beaming and the edge of a crazy smile on his face as he concludes, “Imagine being all tweaked out with the intentions of robbing the bank, and the guard pulls you to the side. I just about pissed my pants. “But that didn’t stop me, I went the next day and robbed another bank.”