By Joel Becker, Associate Editor
As methamphetamine makes a larger impact in western Wisconsin, more and more people are making an effort to find out just how bad the drug really is.
As a part of an Elk Mound inservice for school staff, Tim Schultz of the Division of Narcotics Enforcement gave a presentation to those 60 staff members and another 160 or so community members.
Schultz’ presentation wasn’t something that was humorous or entertaining. Rather it was more apropos for a Halloween spook show.
In fact, portions of the presentation, that included videos and photos, were simply gruesome.
Schultz told the audience that he gives the same presentation to high school students and some find it too graphic.
Early in the presentation on meth, Schultz showed a video with pictures of a 4-year-old girl who had been slowly bloodied, scarred and burned before being scalded to death in a bathtub by her parents who were meth users and cookers.
And the most disturbing portion of the presentation were pictures of people who couldn’t escape their homes when their meth labs exploded.
Schultz touched on marijuana as a gateway drug, but focused on meth because “that is the biggest problem we have right now.”
Schultz has been a presenter for 17 years and said the Polk and Barron county areas are the worst places for methamphetamine in the state of Wisconsin.
He said 90 percent of crime in those counties can be attributed to meth use as users search for ways to acquire the money they need to keep up their habit.
He noted that meth is different from any other drug out there because every other drug is natural. Meth is totally manmade and is the most potent drug there is.
When smoked or injected, he cited a report that said that 90 out of 100 users will become addicts by the second time they use.
“There’s no such thing as a recreational meth user,” Schultz said.
He said people start to use meth (crystal, crank, speed, lith-fluff, ice, glass shards) for a couple of reasons. Schultz said people use it because meth causes dramatic weight loss. It gives users incredible energy and keeps them awake for days or weeks at a time.
It also gives the user a euphoria beyond anything else because it forces the brain to release all of its dopamine, the body’s feel-good drug (except that with all of the dopamine in use, the feeling is 40,000 times stronger than any release the body gives naturally). The brain usually recycles the dopamine, but meth keeps the dopamine in the system for a long high (four to 16 hours) and eventually destroys it.
So no high is as good as the first, but the addict will continually try to recreate that feeling, destroying all dopamine in the body, which meth then simulates. The person can have no feeling of pleasure on their own after continued abuse and rely on meth to feel good.
But, as Schultz said in the nearly two-hour presentation, addicts basically turn into paranoid schizophrenics. He said the “meth monsters” make addicts unable to grasp reality.
Schultz told stories of how addicts believe law enforcement officers were always watching them and out to get them. They even believed they could see them peeking in their windows or watching them with night-vision goggles from a roof across the street.
Another user said he thought he was driving 60 miles an hour in his car and saw a relative running along side, so he opened his door to let him in.
Addicts also get “crank bugs,” which cause them to scratch and pick at their skin.
The cuts and scabs are just one indication of a meth user. They also usually have bad teeth and gums, bad breath, body odor, sunken in eyes, gaunt faces and a haggard appearance.
Since methamphetamine is relatively new in Wisconsin (there’s more in Polk and Barron counties than in Madison and Milwaukee combined) Schultz said the recently-enacted law that puts pseudophedrine (a key meth ingredient) behind the counter will have little affect. Thirty-seven states have similar laws.
When the law was enacted in Iowa, meth-related arrests dropped 70 percent. But Schultz says 90 percent of the meth in Wisconsin comes from Mexicans, much of which comes from Mexico.
Though every meth addict is a victim, children are the innocent victims.
“Meth users care more about the drug than their children,” Schultz said.
Children are constantly exposed to the chemicals necessary to making meth and are often harmed by the toxins or die in meth lab fires.
“Living in a home with a meth lab is like living in a toxic waste dump,” he said.
Schultz said those trying to recover often reoffend. He said the only way for users to break the meth habit is by participating in a long-term program.
Source: www.dunnconnect.con Nov. 2005