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.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Effects of Meth in Dunn County, Wisconsin

Meth in Dunn County

Our series on the effects of methamphetamine focused on teaching readers about this deadly drug and its invasion into the region. First seen in California, courtesy of large, clandestine Mexican labs, meth has been making its way eastward for more than a decade.

Usually white or yellowish in color, meth is an odorless and bitter-tasting powder that dissolves in water. It can be processed into a smokable “ice,” a liquid or a pill form that is injected, inhaled, eaten or smoked.

Cheap and easily-produced in home labs, meth is the most addictive drug known to man. All too often, it use creates a vicious, lifelong cycle of struggle and death that impacts not only law enforcement and the court system but all aspects of our society, economy and environment.

Some of the ingredients used to cook up a batch of meth include anhydrous ammonia, drain cleaner, sulfuric acid and cold tablets containing pseudoephedrine.

The children of adults hooked on meth are already at risk of serious neglect and varying degrees of abuse. And if their parents are “cookers,” the likelihood of chemical exposure increases their danger even more.

“A lot of times, they have the lab in a child's bedroom,” explained Cynthia Giese, special agent in charge of the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation's methamphetamine initiative.

“Meth gets described as the ‘walk away' drug - you walk away from everything that's important,” observed Kris Korpela, executive director of Dunn County Human Services. In addition to human services, a number of other area agencies - law enforcement, public and environmental health, medical facilities and prosecutors - have banded together to form a local chapter of a national coalition called DEC (Drug Endangered Children).

A woman named “Karen” shared her experiences as she witnessed her daughter's descent into methamphetamine addiction. It's a story she felt both a responsibility and a catharctic need to tell. She wanted parents especially to know that the highly-addictive stimulant takes as its prisoner people from all walks of life, regardless of their economic, social and educational background.

Russ Cragin, an investigative sergeant with the Dunn County Sheriff's Department and West Central Drug Task Force explained that Mexican gangs out of the Twin Cities provide most of the “fluff,” as meth is often known, that has been coming into the area. Produced in superlabs in California and Mexico, it is a purer and more highly refined version than is “cooked” in home labs.

Chief Deputy John Kaanta noted that meth first caught the public's attention when it was revealed that Jay Starkweather was under its influence when he embarked on a shooting spree in the late 90s. He killed several people outside his home at Pick Nick Point, a former resort on Tainter Lake.

Despite a recurring myth that treating meth addiction is impossible, it can be done, with patience - and plenty of time. That's where the difficulty can often arise. Most insurance programs pay for an average of 14 days of treatment, considerably less than the minimum 30 days of residential treatment recommended by researchers.

Actually the effects of meth can extend for up to six months, even after just one use. It takes at least a month for a meth abuser to regain essential decision-making and thinking skills. Symptoms of withdrawal include irritability, fatigue, intense hunger, anxiety, psychotic reactions as well as moderate to severe depression and long, disturbed periods of sleep.

At Arbor Place, a treatment center located in Menomonie, the staff has seen a steady increase in the number of meth users admitted to the agency's residential treatment program. Clients enter the program only after they have undergone detoxification and have been medically cleared by a hospital or a doctor.

Unlike its alcohol and other drug abuse clients, impulse and temper control as well as threats of violence and powerful mood swings are common among recovering meth users. Only as symptoms begin to subside and the body begins to heal itself can the real business of psychological treatment begin. Commitment to continued outpatient treatment is critical to a successful recovery as are a positive attitude and a strong support system.

Presenting his 2004 annual report to the Dunn County Board of Supervisors in April, Sheriff Dennis Smith stated, “Methamphetamine is the No. 1 problem in Dunn County.”

His comments were echoed by Cragin, who told the board, “Meth is here and we're running into dangerous people. Meth is making criminals out of people who aren't criminals.”

He reported that the drug's ingredients are easy to obtain, potentially lethal to manufacture and dangerous to clean up when a home lab is busted. Even though the number of labs decreased slightly in 2004, the sheriff's department found that the number of cases involving individuals who were in possession, using or selling meth are on the increase.

Smith noted that the meth problem involves all social service agencies in Dunn County. His observations were borne out a month later during a day-long meth summit at UW-Stout and attended by about 50 law enforcement personnel.

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager welcomed the group to what she called “Meth 101,” acknowledging that some states to the west of Wisconsin have been devastated by the drug. Legislation was recently passed to control access to pseudoephedrine, found in over-the-counter cold medication - one of the key ingredients in the production of meth.

“My sense is when it comes to this issue, the more we get together to discuss the issue, the better,” she said. It has been well-documented that the rise in meth use is correlated to an increase in violent crime.

Meth cases in Wisconsin have jumped 500 percent since 2000, with 101 cases reported in 2000 and 545 reported in 2004. While the problem originated in northwestern Wisconsin, it has migrated south and east across the state.

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