Meth problem not yet in county

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 13, 2006

As far as methamphetamine production is concerned, things have been pretty quiet in Marengo County.

But, the district attorney’s office and local law enforcement officers know meth is a very realistic threat to their area.

Seventeenth Circuit District Attorney Greg Griggers said to see how quickly meth could establish itself in a community; people need only look at how quickly it has spread through the rest of the state. Luckily, he said, Marengo County has seen very few cases.

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“This is a growing epidemic in the state of Alabama,” Griggers said. “Fortunately, we have been spared somewhat from the plague that has affected the rest of the state. But, because of that, we try to take a real strong position here with anybody that is caught manufacturing it, possessing it or selling it even with precursors.”

Methamphetamine, which is a derivative of amphetamine, is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Methamphetamine can be smoked, snorted, orally ingested, and injected. Snorting affects the user in approximately five minutes. Oral ingestion takes about 20 minutes for the user to feel the effects. The effects of methamphetamine can last up to 12 hours.

In the county, Sheriff Jesse Langley said, there have been very few cases. Most of them, he said, involved people who were just passing through.

“Fortunately, we have not had much of a problem with it,” Langley said. “Most of what we have found has been people traveling through buying the components to make it.”

Though there have been few incidents, Langley said, that doesn’t mean the drug can’t move into Marengo County and establish itself quickly. Langley said he expects to see the number of cases grow. The only question is when?

“We are definitely going to see it,” Langley said. “But, at what point, we don’t know when.”

City police departments echoed Langley’s sentiments.

Demopolis Director of Public Safety Jeff Manuel the ease with which the drug can be made makes every community a target.

“It’s not something we see here, but it’s like people say. Stay tuned, it’s coming,” Manuel said. “It is not a problem here yet, but we are certainly not immune.”

Demopolis, Manuel said, conducts training sessions to stay educated on the drug.

Linden Police Chief Jeff Laduron said his department is in a similar situation.

“We really haven’t seen any signs of it in our area right now, but I am sure it is coming,” Laduron said. “We have had training on it, but so far, we have been fortunate. We still go through training sessions on how to handle it.”

Training sessions are important for a number of reasons. They help officers spot possible users, but they also keep law enforcement out of harms way.

Meth is different from most drugs because it is produced in a lab. According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, these methamphetamine labs have been known to be “booby-trapped”, and the lab operators are often well armed.

Labs are also dangerous because of their capacity to injure officers through explosion and fumes.

Because of the creation of toxic waste at methamphetamine production sites, many first response personnel incur injury when dealing with the hazardous substances. The most common symptoms suffered by first responders when they raid methamphetamine labs are respiratory and eye irritations, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath.