Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Growing Meth Epidemic

The following is my first investigative article for the Dawson Community News. Even though the article focuses on the meth problem in Dawson County, the information about meth is still relevant because meth is spreading like wildfire throughout the whole country, especially in the South. Northeast Georgia, in particular, is plagued with an ever-increasing meth addiction rate because Atlanta has become a hub for meth imports. From there, it's filtered out to surrounding counties, all the way to Stephen's County. So here is the article:

by Tia Lynn Lecorchick
Staff Intern

The Meth Task Force, a volunteer-based organization led by Chairman Dewitt Wannamaker, was formed to create a proactive partnership with Dawson County law enforcement to more effectively combat the cyclical nature of methamphetamine abuse by implementing a variety of prevention, education and treatment initiatives.

According to Sheriff Billy Carlisle, The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office has stepped up its efforts to control the prevalent meth problem by assigning two officers solely to drug investigation and utilizing a canine task force to assist in tracking down meth users, suppliers and producers.

"We keep arresting them, but as soon as they serve their time and are released, they go right back to their meth habits. That’s why we need the Meth Task Force," said Carlisle.

"The community needs to know that today’s meth addict does not look like a zombie. They look like common, every day people," explained Wannamaker, who, as a former court appointed special advocate and chairman for a foster home placement review panel, has seen the effects of meth first hand. "The victims of meth are not only the users, but the children, spouses, family and everyone else who depends on users to be functioning members of society."

One of the main objectives of the Meth Task Force is to equip local drug treatment centers with the means to treat meth addicts. According to Wannamaker, none of the Dawson County drug centers are prepared for that.

Rehabilitation for meth addicts has proven to be an involved and prolonged process with discouraging results. In a 2001 MSNBC special report, Jon Bonne cited that out of all illicit drugs, meth has the lowest addiction recovery rate at less than 7 percent.

With an uphill battle ahead for the recovery of meth addicts, preventing people from getting addicted in the first place is a vital investment into the community.

"The best prevention is education," said Wannamaker. "We want to educate every element of the community: the schools, the clubs, the churches and any other organization that will have us."

In 2006, Dawson County police arrested 240 people for drug possession and violations. A good portion of the arrests were for meth, according to Carlisle.

"Everyone wants to think that meth problems only exist in the larger cities, but we have our share of it, too," noted Carlisle.

According to the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, meth is an extremely powerful and highly addictive central nervous system synthetic stimulant that unleashes a flood of dopamine in the brain, causing euphoric moods, increased energy and exaggerated body movements that can last as long as 14 hours. Meth can be injected, snorted, smoked or digested orally. Side-effects include vomiting, diarrhea, bloodshot eyes, rapid heartbeat, dramatic weight-loss, paranoia, rotting teeth, insomnia, memory loss and hallucinations.

Long time addicts are prone to aggression, depression and violence. Full blown meth addicts render their brains incapable of naturally producing normal amounts of dopamine, which can lead to symptoms similar to those of Parkinson disease and type-two schizophrenia. The longer a person is addicted to meth, the greater chances that person has of strokes, cardiovascular collapse and premature death, according to Anti-Meth, a North Georgia organization supporting prevention, treatment, and law enforcement for methamphetamines.

"Meth is the very worst drug we have ever seen," declared Wannamaker. "I won’t ask the community ‘what can you do?’ I am asking, ‘what will you do?’ What will you do to make no meth in Dawson County a reality?"

The next public meeting of the Meth Task Force will be July 26 at Rock Creek Park at 11 a.m. Chuck Wade, executive C.E.O. on the Drugs and Alcohol Counsel for Georgia, will be speaking about the realities of meth as part of the Meth Task Force’s education initiative.

The Meth Task Force works in conjunction with the Dawson County Police Department and is officially supported by The Dawson County Chamber of Commerce and Drugs Don’t Work. To join the their efforts and find out more information visit:


Uncle Jesse :) said...

And can you believe our sweet, innocent Stephanie Tanner was hooked on meth?!?! It's unreal.

Allison said...

Meth is crazy addictive. It is running rampant in my own neighbor hood and would really like to get involved in a Task Force like that.