On September 11, 2023,  it was reported that Roberts International Airport’s Security Manager, Samuel Freeman, was being investigated for his alleged involvement in an attempt to transport several boxes suspected of containing contraband directly from the tarmac via an unauthorized airport gate.

Before the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) would reveal the content of the boxes, the RIA Management and a member of the Joint Security Team told the public that the boxes had Moringa zero tea.

This pronouncement raised unanswered questions among the populace about the Liberian government.

A few hours later, in a press release issued by the Ministry of Information on September 12, 2023, the Ministry of Justice, through the Joint Security of Liberia, confirmed that the consignment of boxes intercepted at the airport containing herbal plants-packaged and in natural form, contained methamphetamine.

The released samples, tested by LDEA’s scientific examination, revealed the presence of the illicit drug, which is prohibited under the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) rules.

What is meth?

Methamphetamine belongs to the class of drugs known as amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Drugs are typically produced in shady laboratories.

Methamphetamine is available as a powder, tablet, or crystal that resembles shards of glass.

Meth is also known as tik,  Yaba speed, uppers, crystal meth, chalk, ice, glass, Christmas tree, and crank (especially when injected).

Afghanistan is the fastest producer of meth, according to the UNODC.

Dr. Moses Ziah, a Liberian psychiatrist, said Meth is more addictive than cocaine, and young people who take it will get hooked on it.

How is Meth Used?

Methamphetamines are either swallowed, inhaled, smoked, or injected into a vein.

Because the “high” from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern. In some cases, people take meth in a form of a binge known as a “run,” giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.

What does Meth do?

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.

The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Its short-term effects show that taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same health effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include: Increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, breathing faster, and increased blood pressure and body temperature 

Long-term effects say that people who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who use methamphetamine than it does in people who have HIV and don’t use the drug. Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering. Other consequences include extreme weight loss, addiction, severe dental problems, etc.

Countries battling Meth

In 2020, Oregon passed Measure 110 to decriminalize drug possession. If you’re found with less than 2 grams of meth in your possession, you now get a Class E violation instead of a felony. This means that you can pay a 100-dollar fine or visit an addiction recovery centre instead of spending time in jail.

Nigeria, South Africa, the US, Australia, Myanmar, and other countries, including Portugal, etc.

0.45 metric tons of methamphetamine were reported to have been seized in 2018 and 2019 in West Africa. Nigeria accounted for over 93 percent of the total seizures of methamphetamine in the reporting period.

Methamphetamine seizures were also reported in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

Liberia has 47,917 at-risk youths, according to the Ministry of Health, and Dr. Ziah wants the government to take control of Meth’s importation.

“Meth being imported to Liberia adds to the problem we currently have, we are aware that it is not a moringa,” the health expert said.

He said, “It is not good for Liberia, and every effort should be made to stop the drug from hitting the streets.”

Despite Liberia signing its drug law, the 10 boxes and 10 packets in a box arrested at RIA remain in the custody of the Security apparatus, but, currently, there is no information on the quantity the meths will produce if sold to the public.

This story was produced with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development’s (CJID) support.


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