"Placing children of meth-addicted parents presents a unique set of challenges, Ashcraft said.
The first thing you want to do in a family crisis is find a relative to place the child with if he or she has to be removed," she said. "It’s strange, but with meth we’re seeing entire families that are addicted, grandparents, aunts and uncles — everybody."
What a depressing state of affairs in this country when you can't even give the children to the extended families because they are addicted to the drug meth. Please Lord, forgive us and heal our land. Kim
See the rest of the story below or go to the link shown above.
The face of meth addiction
Chris Norwood 12-27-2005
These people, of both sexes, white and black, of all ages and from various locations, have only one thing in common. All of them have been convicted of various crimes involving methamphetamine.
They are, tragically, the cutting edge of a rapidly growing problem.
A Long History
The methamphetamine scourge is not new by any means.
"Meth has actually been around since the 1800s," said Bruce Freeman, an emergency response trainer for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. "It was used by the Germans during World War I and by the Germans, Japanese and Americans during World War II to help keep bomber pilots awake for 30 hours at a time.
"In fact, it was commonly used for that purpose up until about 1972, but in small doses in a controlled environment under a doctor’s supervision.
"And it was around in the 1960s and 1970s as a recreational drug, too. The song ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ by the Rolling Stones is about methamphetamine," Freeman said.
What sets the current meth situation apart is the rapid proliferation of home-based laboratories, which first began appearing in Southern California in the early 1990s.
"The California labs were a different situation than what we see here," Freeman said. "You would have a bunch of guys with Uzis set up in a chicken house or a national forest or an abandoned building, cook 1,000 pounds of meth, then move on. Now we’re seeing smaller, permanent labs."
The problem first showed signs of becoming an epidemic when it grew out of California into the rural Midwest, according to Talladega County Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Barry Matson.
"Once you get out into the Midwest a little bit, it gets easier to set up a lab because you’ve got anhydrous ammonia in fertilizer everywhere," Matson said. "At about the same time, you have people all over the country finding meth recipes on the Internet, and you start to see the number of labs just skyrocketing."
Alabama learned from the mistakes of states farther west as the problem began to spread.
"I went to a conference in San Antonio around 1993 or 1994, when we had seen maybe one or two meth cases here," Matson said. "I was talking to a guy from Wyoming, where they were having serious problems.
"And those guys had never even had to deal with crack cocaine before. They were going straight from bootleg whiskey to meth. It was unbelievable what they were dealing with.
"Since then, we’ve been able to send people to Drug Enforcement Administration schools to give them special training. But that first generation that worked the cases out West, those guys are just about all dead right now."
Even now, east central Alabama is still at the edge of the epidemic, according to Mary Ashcraft, Talladega County Department of Human Resources director.
"It’s going to get a lot worse here, I expect," she said. "We’re definitely seeing an impact here, but it’s nowhere near as bad as what they’re dealing with in the northeastern part of the state, around DeKalb, Jackson and Cherokee counties. They’re dealing with a tremendous caseload up there."
"I think meth is going to continue to strike a broader portion of the community," he said. "Meth users, at this point, do not typically want to fool with crack, and crack users are scared of meth users. But the lines between the two groups are starting to blur a little bit, and that’s really scary."
The economics of the meth trade will be a major factor in its expansion, he said. "Right now we’re dealing primarily with home labs, but we’re starting to see major operations in Mexico, Texas and California putting out ice (a crystalline but not necessarily purer form of methamphetamine) and selling it on the street," Matson said. "That’ll hurt the local labs initially, but as the price goes up, the locals will come back.
"You’ll also probably start to see people who used to deal in crack handling meth also. Those kinds of people don’t care what kind of poison they’re selling. I hope there’s a special room in hell for people who would bring that into somebody’s life."
Aside from the obvious influx of new drug crimes stemming from meth use, the drug also impacts the justice system in other ways.
"Both meth and crack are very addictive, terrible drugs, but the paranoia associated with meth use is much worse than what you see with crack users," Matson said. "The violence associated with crack generally involves robberies to get more money or things like that.
"With meth, you have that too, but you also have an intrinsic violence that comes from being very paranoid. One of the guys from Wyoming told me a story back then about a meth addict who hung her baby up in a door hanger and then kicked it to death. It was just unbelievable."
The epidemic has also impacted DHR, Ashcraft said.
"Probably 75 to 80 percent of our foster care caseload involves parents with addictions," she said. "And those numbers have been on the rise. As a parent becomes more dependent, their basic parenting skills just go out the door. Their next hit becomes more important than their children."
In the years since meth became a problem in Talladega County, the average number of children in foster care has climbed from about 115 to about 135 per month.
"Those numbers are subject to change, and I don’t really have solid figures on how many of those are directly meth related," Ashcraft said, "but it’s still a pretty sobering statistic."
Placing children of meth-addicted parents presents a unique set of challenges, Ashcraft said.
"The first thing you want to do in a family crisis is find a relative to place the child with if he or she has to be removed," she said. "It’s strange, but with meth we’re seeing entire families that are addicted, grandparents, aunts and uncles — everybody."
Meth takes its toll in other ways as well. According to Jane Haney, a nurse practitioner at Talladega County Health Department, "anytime you’re dealing with severe drug abuse it inhibits your judgment. You’re a lot more likely to do risky things like have unprotected sex or to prostitute yourself in exchange for the drug. We see a lot more cases of HIV and syphilis among meth users."
Severe weight loss is considered a classic symptom of meth abuse.
"When we see cases of malnutrition and weight loss, that’s a reason for suspicion right there," Haney said. "That, and people with a lot of little sores from scratching. I’m not really sure why that is."
The home manufacture of meth also carries a whole host of dangers in and of itself, Freeman said.
The manufacture of meth usually involves three categories of hazardous substances.
"You have flammable, reactive chemicals that are used as solvents," Freeman said. "Then you have the corrosives, strong acids or bases that give off dangerous vapors and can burn the skin if it’s splashed on. These substances also generate heat and can ignite the flammable substances.
"Then you have toxic inhalation hazards in smaller quantities, particularly if you’re using red phosphorous and iodine. When you heat that up, it produces PH3, or phosphine gas, a blistering agent similar to phosgene gas, which has been used as a chemical weapon.
"Only phosphine is actually much deadlier, and it is produced in small quantities every time that method is used so there is potential for long-term damage."
The distinctive odor of ammonia is probably the most widely known indication of a meth lab, but as anhydrous ammonia becomes more difficult to come by, the red phosphorous and iodine method of cooking have become more common, Freeman said.
"The odor is going to vary according to which method they are using. But anytime your eyes and nose start running or burning, that could be an indication. Also, if you see a $10,000 surveillance system on a $3,000 shack, that could be another sign. Or if they have a camouflage tarp over the roof to prevent detection from the air."
The methods for cleaning up a meth lab are now fairly well established, but the long-term repercussions remain largely unknown.
"The DEA will hire contractors to come and properly dispose of the chemicals, but they don’t take out the drapes, carpet, countertops, clothes or any of the porous surfaces inside the house," Freeman said. "And what happens if a new family moves into that house without knowing what used to be in there? There is just no standard on how clean is actually clean."
The impact on the area surrounding a lab is also unclear.
"It would be prohibitively expensive to sample all of the soil and water surrounding a lab just to identify substances without addressing them," Freeman said.
"There are at least 10 different ways to make meth," he said. "Seven or eight of them require Ph.D.-level knowledge of chemistry. Unfortunately, the others can be accomplished with things that most people have lying around the house anyway."
Actually, Matson said, there is another method of producing the drug that probably doesn’t require a doctorate.
"We’re starting to see some pee labs now," he said. "Addicts will actually resell their urine and sweat while they’re high to extract and recycle the meth. If that isn’t the sign of a desperate addiction, I don’t know what is."
About Chris Norwood
Chris Norwood is a staff writer for The Daily Home.
Contact Chris Norwood
Phone: FAX: E-mail:
256 299-2114 256 299-2192 email@example.com