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The methamphetamine nightmare will impact us all

Last week I completed the last in a series of stories about the illicit use of methamphetamine and the impact it’s having in Harrison County. This is truly a nightmare that will impact each of us, sooner or later.
Addicted users often turn into thieves to get the money they need to buy the drug or the ingredients to make it, so those of us who hold a steady job and pay taxes will get stuck with the bill for law enforcement to catch them, the court system to convict the them, the prison system to house them, and the medical care that will be needed.
Few meth addicts hold a regular job or have medical insurance. A meth addict thinks he is invincible and ignores the warning signs of a health problem until it is nearly too late.
If children are involved, we may also pay for their care and medical costs.
A couple of years ago, Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor and I did a series of stories on the methamphetamine issue. After reading those stories, some people were a little more knowledgeable and not as hesitant to call police when they suspected a meth cook or drug deal going down.
Some retailers started watching the sales of ingredients in meth recipes such as anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), sulfuric acid (drain cleaner), ether (engine starter), lye, red phosphorus from matches or road flares, and of course, the main ingredient, the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine found in some cold tablets.
The meth problem has not improved, to say the least, since those earlier stories. We need to pull out all the stops when it comes to dealing, or attempting to deal, with this devastating, deadly drug. This stuff is so addictive a person can be hooked after one hit. If that’s not scary enough, it has been shown in brain scans and autopsies that methamphetamine kills brain cells from the start. Not just any brain cells, but the ones that control behavior, including a tendency toward addiction. It takes more than a year, sometimes 18 months, for the brain to figure out how to use different cells to take over the job, so any rehabilitation program must continue at least that long or there’s little hope for long-lasting recovery.
A couple of weeks ago (thanks to the foresight of North Harrison High School Assistant Principal Doug Dodge) a man from Martin, Tenn., was invited here to share his story. It was ugly, so ugly in fact that you would think no one who heard the story would ever want to try meth. That was the point.
David Parnell, 37, a husband and father, told the students at North Harrison a frightful story of beginning to use drugs at age 13, when he first smoked marijuana with his dad. From then on, for 23 years, it sounded as though his life was measured by one high after another. It took more and more and harder and harder drugs to keep what he calls the ‘dragon’ under control.
Yet he managed, to a point. He fell in love, married, had a child, divorced, fell in love, married, had six more kids … but then, fearing he would soon be divorced again, he got out his assault rifle and tried to blow himself away.
Instead, only his face was shot to kingdom come. When he came to in a hospital, he figured there must be a message in there, a reason from a greater power that his life was spared. (By the way, Parnell had a job and medical insurance.) He decided it was time he learned from his mistakes, that he turn his life around and try to help others. When he found out child No. 8 was on his way, David Parnell thought he’d been given another sure-fire sign to straighten up and spread his message.
He is doing that now. The reason he is such an excellent message carrier is that he doesn’t mince words. He is proof positive everywhere he goes, every time he looks at someone, that meth is bad news. His face is a continuing restoration project.
It is the courage behind the face that delivers the message.
In the recent session of the legislature, lawmakers stepped in to help control the sale of meth ingredients.
Come July 1, it will be a little harder to buy cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine. At the same time, it will be it a lot harder for methamphetamine cooks to get the cold tablets, from which pseudoephedrine is extracted to make the highly addictive drug.
Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law Tuesday, May 10. It takes effect July 1.
The bill is intended to make it much more difficult for meth cooks to set up shop in Indiana. After a similar law was passed in Oklahoma, meth labs were cut by 70 percent. Some stores will need to keep the medication in locked cases or behind the counter. Customers will have to show identification and sign for the purchase. They also must be at least 18 and can buy no more than 100 pills a week. Small retailers can sell packages of four tablets, but they must be displayed within 30 feet of the checkout counter.
The innocent will be inconvenienced by the restricted sales, too.
Many retail outlets, tired of being used by the unscrupulous, initiated their own rules in an effort to turn the tide on the cooks, but it wasn’t enough as long as a person could walk across the street and get what they needed.
The restrictions will be a small price to pay if a few cooks and dealers are discouraged and slow down a bit or even take their trade elsewhere. Eventually, meth cooks may run out of places to hide if they aren’t all dead before then, blown to pieces by one of those volatile ingredients (like anhydrous ammonia) used in making meth. Or they could inhale a little too much of the fumes, intentionally or not. Although it’s dangerous to make, recipes for making methamphetamine can be found on the Internet, but Parnell warned that sometimes the ingredients aren’t listed correctly or the directions are off just enough to invite an explosion, all because of the author’s sick, even deadly, sense of humor.
A new group called 4Community Planning Partners is preparing to tackle the problems caused by meth. It’s still identifying those problems as well as looking for resolutions. A good start (one the group is considering) would be to bring Parnell back to talk to students at Corydon, South Central and Lanesville. His fee is $1,000, including expenses, and the price includes talking to a community gathering, too. To learn more, go to or contact Parnell at [email protected]