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What you can do to halt meth epidemic

After tomorrow, if someone gets a nasty cold, they won’t be able to walk into a store and pick up a couple of packages of their favorite cold remedy if it contains ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. In some cases, the product will be stashed behind the counter so you must ask for it and then sign you name, and the amount you can buy is limited.
The clerk isn’t trying to cause problems. It’s just that illegal methamphetamine production in Indiana has become such a problem (nationwide, really) that the General Assembly is making it tougher to get products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine because those are major ingredients in making methamphetamine. The law takes effect July 1.
Methamphetamine is a mystery to most people in Harrison County, but it’s known well throughout the country. It has several names, the most common of which is probably speed.
Meth has been around for a long time. Indiana State Police Trooper Katrina Greenwell, one of three state troopers assigned to the Methamphetamine Investigative Unit that covers Harrison, Floyd, Washington, Clark and Scott counties, said it is believed to have been created in the Orient sometime during the 700s. ‘It’s by no means a new drug,’ she said.
When I began working on the ‘METH MADNESS’ series for this newspaper a few months ago, I found that what had been making its way across the nation the last few years from California is a lot stronger and more dangerous than we could ever have imagined. To some degree, it seems I, too, am addicted to meth: to the study of it, to the writing about it, to pleading for this madness to stop. Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor and I did a series on the problem the summer before last, but no one except the police seemed to be talking about it then, and so much has happened since …
What jump-started the second series was the March 6 in-depth story on ‘Katie’s Town,’ a Courier-Journal piece by Michael A. Lindenberger, Alex Davis and Harold J. Adams. In their poignant account, the writers show how and why Crothersville has lost its luster, even before the young Katlyn Collman was murdered after she allegedly stumbled upon a meth lab. Change a few street names and main characters and it could have been a tale of any Main Street USA town, even the little ones in Harrison County.
Some foreign soldiers used methamphetamine in World War II to make them feel invincible and take daring risks, in some cases deadly.
It was rumored that Hitler was a meth head, said ISP Josh Banet, another trooper assigned to the five-county Methamphetamine Investigative Unit.
Remember the Japanese kamikaze pilots who flew suicide attack missions in World War II? Meth was a likely motivator, Banet said. Today’s terrorists who pay the ultimate price by blowing themselves to bits along with their targets? Road rage drivers capable of a random shooting? Perhaps they’re meth users, too.
After the war, drugs in general began to take hold on the West Coast. During the ’60s (think ‘make love, not war’) drug use became common in some cultures, and it slowly began to spread east. Now it’s arrived in the midwest and spreading with a vengeance.
Banet spoke recently to a group of concerned social services caseworkers in Harrison County. He said meth produces an extremely pleasant euphoria, a high that can last six to eight hours. By contrast, a cocaine high lasts only 20 to 30 minutes. Methamphetamine floods the brain with endorphines, a group of proteins with potent analgesic properties. And since the drug can be made just about anywhere ‘ from the bed of a pickup to a clearing in the forest ‘ by anyone willing to take the risks, the price is relatively low. Unless, of course, that price turns out to be a person’s life.
Meth ingredients are highly volatile, prone to explosions, and the drug itself is so addictive it’s not uncommon for a person to be hooked after ‘experimenting’ just once. That translates to an obsession with the drug that overrides judgment and takes over the person’s life ‘ that is, what’s left of it. Once hooked, users take more and more, trying to regain that initial high. Instead, it takes more and more of the drug just to feel normal, and before long, it affects the user in many awful ways, but probably most dangerous is the paranoia.
The message from a former meth user, David Parnell of Tennessee, is that meth ‘is as addictive as crack cocaine but is 10 times as strong and 10 times as dangerous.’
The lethal substance affects the central nervous system and destroys part of the brain. Toxic fumes even work their way into the walls of buildings where meth is cooked and into the clothing and skin of anyone nearby. Meth labs are so toxic that they are labeled a toxic waste site that requires environmental cleanup. Children are removed from a home where meth is cooked. No ifs, ands or buts.
Harrison County is fortunate to have a coalition (4community) working on the epidemic. Debbie Heazlitt has been hired to lead the effort. She can usually be reached weekdays before noon at 734-0385 if you would like more information about this drug.
The message of this story is twofold and it’s simple. One, don’t even go near this stuff. And if you know someone for whom this message seems too late, tell them it may not be. Indiana has at least one treatment center. It’s at the Miami Correctional Facility north of Kokomo. It opened in April. We’ve been told it’s full, but there are others we’re sure the state could recommend. Call the correctional department at 1-317-232-5715, or the state police at 1-800-872-6743 toll free or the sheriff’s department at 738-2195.
Second, if you think there’s a meth cooker operating nearby, report it. Again, call the state police or the sheriff’s department. If you can’t remember the numbers and you believe an emergency exists, such as children in harm’s way or a possible explosion, it’s OK to dial 911, police said.