Meth use a growing concern in Marengo

Published 11:41 pm Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It is a blight that has plagued neighboring counties for years, but has so far not been a major problem for Marengo County.

Meth use has, for the past decade, been rising in rural areas of west Alabama and east Mississippi. Now, law enforcement agencies are gearing up to prevent it becoming a problem here as well.

To arm local law enforcement officers with necessary training to battle an anticipated rise in meth incidents, the Linden Police Department hosted a two-day workshop on the issue. About 15 police departments participated in the workshop, which was administered by the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

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“Meth is becoming a big problem, and will soon be in Linden if we do not act,” said Linden’s police chief Scott McClure. “The law agencies in Marengo County have done a great job being aggressive against any drug activity. I feel that is why we have not seen as many cases of meth here as in other rural counties.”

Beginning today, The Demopolis Times will run a three-part series on methamphetamine abuse, what it is, its effects and what to watch out for.

Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. It is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of methamphetamine are greater.

Street methamphetamine is referred to by many names, such as “speed,” “meth” and “chalk.” Meth-amphetamine hydrochloride, clear chunky crystals resembling ice, which can be inhaled by smoking, is referred to as “ice,” “crystal” and “glass.”

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure and hyperthermia.

Long-term methamphetamine abuse has many negative consequences, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances and violent behavior.

Chronic methamphetamine abusers can also display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin).

The reason most become addicted is because they think they can control it. Methamphetamine users’ euphoric rush is so great the first time, they keep searching to attain that feeling, which they never will.

“It’s a terrible drug with an extremely high addictive rate,” said McClure. “Most people who try it once are hooked, and it is extremely hard to get clean.”

Currently, the most effective treatments are behavioral. A comprehensive behavioral treatment approach that combines behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, 12-step support, drug testing and encouragement for non-drug-related activities, has been shown to be effective in reducing methamphetamine abuse.

In tomorrow’s edition of The Demopolis Times, we will look at how much of an impact meth has become for west Alabama and ways local law enforcement agencies plan to battle the growing meth problem.