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Tweaker madness

class=img_thumbleft> Back in the Carter and Reagan eras there were stories about "dusters," unruly teens so wacked out on PCP they'd jump through windows five stories high or sail a rusty Ford Granada over a cliff just to feel what it's like to fly. In 1980, two doctors did a study on PCP's image as perpetuated by the media and found, among many questionable and oft-repeated stories, 17 newspaper accounts of a duster gouging out his/her own eyes, nine accounts of PCP user cutting off a various body part, and five stories about a user wandering onto the highway to do push-ups. The doctors don't deny that PCP is a dangerous drug for the user; but the study focuses only on how anecdotes become apocrypha, cobbled-together and interchangeable stories that resemble horror tales and folklore from the past. In many cases, these angel-dust scare stories were unfounded or only held kernels of the truth.

In the last few years, meth undoubtedly has replaced PCP and marijuana before it as the new drug that supposedly turns users into demons who are prone to cause unspeakable harm if provoked. According to all the hype, meth users are scary and unpredictable creatures, like startled deer with antlers made of rusty knives and hooves soaked in batter acid. In a program about meth called "MPD Cops" that recently aired on the Metro Cable Network, the Minneapolis Police Department detailed what to do when approaching a "tweaker." Is it a cautionary tale or a repeat of Reefer Madness?

"Safety Tips When Approaching a Tweaker"

1. Keep your distance--seven to 10 feet away and call police.

2. DO NOT shine bright lights at him/her. They are already paranoid and if blinded they are likely to run or become violent.

3. Slow your speach [sic] and lower the pitch of your voice. Tweakers hear sounds at a fast pace and high pitch.

4. Slow your movements. Decreases chance that tweaker will misinterpret your physical actions.

5. Keep your hands visible. Since the tweaker is already paranoid, if they cannot see your hands they might feel threatened and become violent.

6. Keep the tweaker talking. They can be extremely dangerous when silent. This often means their paranoid thoughts have taken over reality and anyone on the scene can become part of their delusion.

While these tips sound like what to do when approaching a 300-pound rabid raccoon, a 1999 study by the National Institute of Justice found that meth users were significantly less likely to be charged with violent crimes than other drug arrestees. Only 16 percent of meth users studied were arrested for violent behavior. Alcohol use, however, played a role in at least 30 percent of violent crimes in 2002.