This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Children often meth's biggest victim

January 22, 2006

Children often meth's biggest victim

By Julie Goodman

Now a Hinds County Sheriff's Department trusty, Mark Tucker was convicted of possession of meth and components to manufacture the drug.

Mark Tucker was in his early 30s when he began snorting crystal methamphetamine as a weekend recreation, a habit that burgeoned into an addiction, taking over his life and his job before landing him in jail.

But Tucker was one of the lucky ones. His children — now aged 9, 12 and 16 — are safe, and remain under the care of their mother, awaiting their father's return.

Other users he knows saw their addiction take over their children's lives, as well as their own, as state workers stepped in to protect their families. He has friends who were busted in hotel rooms with babies in their care. Some used their children's bottles to hide their drugs.

"I lost everything, I lost everything I had other than my children and my family, and that being only because I had a loving family that stood beside me," Tucker said from the Hinds County courthouse, where he does custodial, clerical and other work while he serves his seven-year sentence.

Crystal methamphetamine is cheap, accessible, highly addictive — and it is the drug officials say is a serious problem for children whose parents cook it on the family stove. It's dangerous not only because of the toll it takes on the mind, but also because most of its ingredients can be bought at any major store.

The explosion of methamphetamine use and its role in landing children in the foster-care system is one of the issues Gov. Haley Barbour wants to address through legislation focusing on the number and quality of direct-care social workers.

Authorities agree the problem is urgent, pointing to households where children are found neglected — in soiled clothes, among dirty syringes, and sometimes learning to cook the drug themselves.

Authorities must find relatives to take in the children or risk having them shuffled from foster home to foster home under state custody.

Children and the social workers who retrieve them are exposed to toxic fumes, which can cause respiratory problems and even explosions. Strangers regularly traipse through the households, and residue from the drug coats countertops and areas where children play.

Parents who use the drug sometimes become paranoid and are prone to take off at the first sign of arrest, said Capt. Jeff Killion, who oversees the methamphetamine program for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

"Whatever you can envision that is evil and wrong in the world, meth children will be exposed to it," he said. "I've interviewed moms and dads that are on this stuff who've left their children behind."

Once called "poor man's cocaine," the drug is made of chemicals including ammonia, lithium, freon, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and rubbing alcohol, some of which can be obtained easily from batteries, matchbooks or cleaning supplies.

Killion said there were 381 seizures statewide of methamphetamine labs or chemicals in 2004, and 118 of them involved situations with children. That number began to decrease last year after lawmakers passed a law restricting the sale of the drug's ingredients.

For example, there are new limits on the number of items containing methamphetamine ingredients a store can sell at a time. The law also requires photo identification for some purchases and that certain items be sold from behind a counter or a locked display case.

So in 2005, the number of seizures statewide dropped to 252, with 35 involving children. And the bulk of the seizures came before the law took effect in July, Killion said.

Rickey Berry, deputy administrator for programs at the Department of Human Services, said authorities discovered in one home a 6-year-old who not only had head lice, but also teeth that had rotted down to her gumline. Children removed from these homes must be "detoxed," he said, and the department is concerned some may have permanent brain damage.

"People, when they get deeply involved with this drug, ... they let everything go except for the craving for this drug."

Officials say methamphetamine manufacturing is more prevalent in rural communities, in part because fumes are not detected as quickly in less populated areas. Also, rural areas place manufacturers closer to farmers and their supply stores, which carry some of the chemicals used for the drug.

Forrest County and Youth Court Judge Mike McPhail said although alcohol abuse remains a more serious problem, he has seen an increase in the number of families and children who end up in court because of methamphetamine use.

The trend is generally young couples with young children who try to avoid detection by crossing county lines to buy ingredients. Sometimes more family members are involved. "Their kids are hanging on to them from trailer to trailer, from house to house, from location to location. It's very unsettling," he said.

McPhail recalled one case where authorities raided a methamphetamine operation where children were present but the mother was absent. The children were placed with a grandfather, only to be retrieved later by the mother, who moved to another county and began manufacturing the drug again.

Killion said he sometimes sees children in these environments not developing properly, such as a lethargic 2-year old who can't walk.

Some homes have so many people come and go, that the children barely react when narcotics agents come busting in with guns drawn, he said. "These children are just nonresponsive. In many cases, it's an every day occurrence to them."

Tucker, who was sentenced to 14 years with seven years suspended, said his children would probably be in the foster-care system if it weren't for his wife.

"Most of the time when an individual gets busted for crystal meth, they're going to take your children," he said.

"If it hadn't of been for my family, I would have lost mine, also. There's no doubt about that."


Drug seizures

Statewide seizures of
methamphetamine labs
or chemicals Situations with children
2001 230 121
2002 469 300
2003 344 150
2004 381 118
2005 252 35

Source: Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics


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