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Officials say strawberry Pop Rocks rumor is all fizz
By Kerry Lester | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/28/2008 6:00 PM

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Worried you might find a potentially deadly packet of "candy" in your kid's Halloween bag?

You're not alone.

Hundreds of local school officials and parents have been forwarded an e-mail in recent weeks warning against "strawberry quick" a form of methamphetamine that looks - and tastes - like strawberry Pop Rocks - the candy that crackles in your mouth.

While use of the addictive stimulant among teens and young adults is a problem, officials say the forwarded e-mail and resulting news media coverage may be blowing the issue out of proportion.

"A lot of this is urban hype," said Jim Kuchta, director of the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group, which deals with drug enforcement in the county. "I have yet to find any police department that has seized any of this (strawberry meth) ... it's a lot of this third-person rumor stuff."

Two weeks ago, Crystal Central Lake High School Dean Steve Greiner received an e-mail about the drug he believed was from the Crystal Lake Police Department.

"There is a very scary thing going on in the schools right now that we all need to be aware of," the e-mail reads. "There is a type of crystal meth going around that looks like strawberry pop rocks ... They are calling it strawberry meth or strawberry quick. Kids are ingesting this thinking that it is candy and being rushed off to the hospital in dire condition."

A picture attached to the message shows light pink crystals in a plastic sandwich bag.

Greiner forwarded it on to Vice Principal Lorena Gorey, who sent it off to school faculty members. "I trusted it because I thought it came from the police department," Gorey said.

Crystal Lake Police Cmdr. Dan Dziewor said his department never sent out an alert.

"Other than the inquiry from the one school, we certainly haven't seen anything like that," Dziewor said.

Neither has the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group.

"Not only have we not seen strawberry meth, we haven't really seen meth at all up here," Director Larry Lindenman said. "If this was something that was happening in the schools, we would be acutely aware of it."

Southern Illinois Enforcement Agency Special Projects Director Tom McNamara began investigating rumors of "strawberry quick" two years ago.

"This is somewhat of a hysteria," McNamara said. "And frankly, there's no basis."

Meth made from Sudafed or generic pseudoephedrine, which often takes on a light pink tinge, could be confused with the flavored version, McNamara conjectured.

To date, the state crime lab has not tested any meth samples with strawberry flavoring, McNamara said.

Federal DEA spokesman Michael Sanders said his organization has seen only a handful of strawberry meth cases across the country in the past two years.

"We've seen some isolated incidents on the West and East coasts, but there is no trend whatsoever," Sanders said. "It's something we're watching, just in case."

The DEA's Chicago division has not seen any cases to date, spokeswoman Joanna Zoltay said.

Despite this, officials advocate carefully checking over children's Halloween candy before letting them eat it. Especially anything that looks homemade. "If anything else, it'll put parents on alert," Kuchta said.