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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A face to meth (Hibbing, Minnesota)

Kjerstin Lang
The Daily Tribune

Kjerstin Lang
Former meth user Mark Walls speaks to a crowd of interested community members about his past meth addiction. Looking on are Racheal Pierce who also battled with the drug and Outpatient Treatment Counselor for Arrowhead Center Pat Grahek.
HIBBING — Former meth users, local law enforcement and a treatment counselor spoke about their personal experience dealing with meth at a panel discussion on Tuesday night. The panel made it clear that the addiction can happen to anyone, and once addicted, the drug abuses the person.

Former meth user Mark Walls said when he started using meth he wanted to work and make more cash.

“I wanted to have more money and be able to buy my kids the best toys on the block, have the nicest house...,but you don’t do meth. Meth does you,” said Walls. “It tells you when you are going to go to sleep, when you are going to go to work, all this stuff is true.”

The meth problem has spread all over communities of northeastern Minnesota. That’s why Executive Director of United Way of Northeastern Minnesota Shelly Renner said that their path has began to focus heavily on the battle. They brought together the panel to talk facts, resources and spotting the problem.

“The best thing about education and talking about it is people will get the help they need,” said Renner. “And what we have found in the last years is there is help, and we do have success stories.”

Renner cited a 6 percent recovery rate for meth users. Some of those success stories were present, including Wall.

“I once thought I had worms coming out of my skin. It was real at that time,” he said. “The schizophrenia is there because at that point they think there are helicopters landing in their yard. They think the police are in the trees, and it isn’t the normal police coming to get them, it’s the FBI or the CIA.”

Lt. Tim Harkonen of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, discussed the definition of meth, common names, how it is taken, the “binge cycle” and signs.

He showed before and after photos, reflecting meth mouth with teeth completely decayed. The faces went from young, healthy-looking complexions to gray tinged skin, sunken cheek bones, and sad lifeless stares.

Harkonen said one photo of a 13-year old girl was particularly disturbing to him.

“This is what we are starting to see more and more — young teenagers and younger people starting to use meth at an age where they really don’t have a clue,” said Harkonen. “Some of these children obviously don’t have a choice, they are being dragged into it and you can see the devastating effects on a 13-year old girl, after only a few months, she looks like hell — basically.”

Harkonen described other signs such as meth users craving sugary liquids, having high energy and restlessness. He said the addiction produces not only a physical problem, but a mental one.

“It replaces all pleasure. A lot of users I have spoken with say they have no idea how they feel,” said Harkonen. “Meth has told them what type of day they are going to have. It is very devastating. It takes over their life and the ability to feel pleasure and pain.”

Outpatient Treatment Counselor for Arrowhead Center Pat Grahek has seen patients suffering from addiction and withdrawal. He said it’s hard for meth users to stay off the drug because it is the only thing that can make them feel good.

“Nothing else makes them feel good,” he said. “Being with their children does not make them feel good, being at a Christmas party does not make them feel good, helping someone else does not make them feel good. Nothing makes them feel good.”

Renner said that people of all ages have stepped forward to talk about the addiction. She said they shouldn’t be looked at like outsiders.

“We don’t want to look at them like the scum of the earth,” she said. “These are real people with a real problem.”


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