Meth makes no sense

February 7, 2005

For the past several years, the community in which I live has waged a battle with methamphetamine. Since the late '90s, the rural areas of southwestern Indiana have been devastated by this drug. These areas of low socioeconomic growth have been a place for methamphetamine addiction to develop. The impact on law enforcement, social agencies, businesses, and families in which meth use is present has been staggering. Politicians have made this a priority issue in recent elections.

For the past several years, the community in which I live has waged a battle with methamphetamine. Since the late '90s, the rural areas of southwestern Indiana have been devastated by this drug. These areas of low socioeconomic growth have been a place for methamphetamine addiction to develop. The impact on law enforcement, social agencies, businesses, and families in which meth use is present has been staggering. Politicians have made this a priority issue in recent elections.

One fact remains clear: Once meth arrives in your town, it is hard to eradicate. The problem is so serious that Pfizer recently replaced pseudoephedrine, the precursor of methamphetamine, with phenylephrine in Sudafed. The new cold and allergy medicine is called Sudafed PE. In the retail pharmacy where I work, I have witnessed the meth epidemic grow. So I decided to join in the fight against meth with other concerned community leaders.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that can be taken orally, smoked, inhaled, or used intravenously. Street names include annie, speed, meth chalk, Christina, or Tina. In its smoked form, it is often referred to as ice, crystal, crank, and glass. Since the sense of euphoria meth produces can last from four to six hours, it is a much cheaper product to use than cocaine, which produces a high for only 30 minutes to one hour.

Cooking meth is as highly addictive as using meth, for the control factor it provides. The cooks take great pride in having the best product around. One Indiana state trooper said these cooks would rather die than give up their labs. They would choose death over jail, because they believe there is no life without meth. In some ways, it reminds one of the moonshine wars that went on in the hills of Kentucky.

The same may be said of mothers addicted to meth. Many times they are willing to give up their children, rather than surrender meth and seek treatment. The state troopers have no choice but to remove children from homes where there is an active lab present. In Greene County, Ind., one month this past spring, there were 54 children removed from homes where there was a lab present. Of those 54 children, 49 tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine.

Randy Stevens, M.D., of Union Hospital Family Practice of Terre Haute, Ind., stated that approximately 10-15 mothers who deliver at his facility each month test positive for meth. If the baby tests positive, child protective services must remove the baby from its mother.

This creates a whole new set of problems for foster parents and those waiting to adopt. Deb Halley, R.N., of Union Hospital said these babies go through their own withdrawal. They are at first lethargic and may turn away from visual stimuli. Later they are jittery and irritable and sometimes require doses of IV phenobarbital for agitation and seizure-like symptoms.