By the HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools for Havre Daily News
Once considered a West Coast phenomenon, methamphetamine abuse and illicit manufacturing have spread across the nation to the Northwest, Midwest and portions of the South.
Some indicators show stabilization in the abuse of methamphetamine; nonetheless, the record amounts of powder methamphetamine trafficking and abuse in the United States during the 1990s resulted in a devastating impact on communities across the nation.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, meth has become the most dangerous drug problem of small-town America. Traffickers make and distribute the drug in some of our country's most rural areas. And, 12- to 14-year-olds who live in smaller towns are 104 percent more likely to use meth than those who live in larger cities.
Meth is such a threat in rural America because it is cheap and easy to make. Drugs that can be bought over the counter at local stores are mixed with other common ingredients to make meth. Small labs to cook the drug can be set up on tables or countertops in kitchens, garages or just about anywhere. Although superlabs operated by sophisticated traffickers still supply the majority of meth, these smaller tabletop labs have increased exponentially in the last decade, setting an alarming trend.
Here are some facts about meth:
What is it? Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that strongly activates certain systems in the brain.
What does it look like? It is a crystal-like powdered substance that sometimes comes in large rocklike chunks. When the powder flakes off the rock, the shards look like glass, which is another nickname for meth. Meth is usually white or slightly yellow, depending on the purity.
What are the street names for it? Chalk, crank, croak, crypto, crystal, fire, glass, meth, speed, white cross, tweek.
How is it used? Methamphetamine can be taken orally, injected, snorted or smoked.
What are its short-term effects? Immediately after smoking or injection, the user experiences an intense sensation, called a "rush" or "flash," that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or swallowing meth produces euphoria - a high, but not a rush. After the initial "rush," there is typically a state of high agitation that in some individuals can lead to violent behavior. Other possible immediate effects include increased wakefulness and insomnia, decreased appetite, irritability or aggression, anxiety, nervousness, convulsions and heart attack.
What are its long-term effects? Meth is addictive, and users can develop a tolerance quickly, needing larger amounts to get high. In some cases, users forego food and sleep and take more meth every few hours for days, binging until they run out of the drug or become too disorganized to continue. Chronic use can cause paranoia; hallucinations; repetitive behavior like compulsively cleaning, grooming, or disassembling and assembling objects; and delusions of parasites or insects crawling under the skin. Users can obsessively scratch their skin to get rid of these imagined insects. Long-term use, high dosages, or both can bring on full-blown toxic psychosis, often exhibited as violent, aggressive behavior. This violent, aggressive behavior is usually coupled with extreme paranoia. Meth can also cause strokes and death.
How has meth affected Montana communities? Methamphetamine is in our community and it is affecting our population. During a recent address to the Corrections Advisory Council, State Prison warden Mike Mahoney emphasized that Montana's prisons are overcrowded, and the explosion of methamphetamine convictions is the reason. "The inn is full, and it's driven by methamphetamines," Mahoney said.
On June 1-3, Gov. Judy Martz will host a methamphetamine summit at the Mansfield Health Education Center in Billings. The summit agenda will provide for the exploration of policy options and strategies to reduce the production, distribution and use of methamphetamine in Montana.
Additionally, Martz will reconvene the Montana Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Control Policy Task Force for the summit in recognition of its work to address this issue in a comprehensive manner. Those attending the governor's methamphetamine summit will participate in an informed discussion of the myriad issues related to the production, sale and use of methamphetamine. Areas of focus include:
Child Protective Services
Attendance will be limited to 200 attendees, with registration taken on a limited, first-come, first-served basis. To learn more about the summit, log on to http://state.mt.us/gov2.
If you would like more information about this or related topics, contact the local HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.