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, June 26, 2006

Children living in meth homes often develop mental disabilities (New Mexico)

Police need help to combat meth


Second of two parts

Although Rio Rancho police have not busted a meth lab in the last two years, the effects of past methamphetamine endeavors still linger today, from the toxic chemicals that are still present in houses previously used for cooking meth to the many addicts who are still dependant on the substance.

The Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety hosted a meth-awareness class June 16, not only to educate the public about the dangerous drug, but also to solicit the public's aid in combating its use.

Why meth is dangerous

Besides the mental damage that methamphetamine causes, it is also quite destructive to the body.

Abuse of methamphetamine decimates the body's immune system, leaving users more susceptible to illness and unable to heal from even minor ailments. Frequently, Francis said, meth addicts develop infections because their bodies cannot heal properly.

Getting off methamphetamine is difficult, as withdraw can cause severe depression. After years of use, Francis said, meth users who aren't under the influence of the substance are frequently slow, difficult to reason with, and lack common sense.

Meth is also dangerous to those who live around the labs, and its after-effects are as long lasting.

Explosions, because the cooking process requires many volatile chemicals, are an immanent threat. For a large lab, one that fills a room, police may have to evacuate an entire neighborhood. Francis said that no meth-related explosions have occurred in Rio Rancho.

"We've had to evacuate neighborhoods before because of the labs, because of the process that's going on," Francis said.

Cleaning up the mess

With larger labs, the Drug Enforcement Agency assists local departments, both in manpower and in cost, Francis said. A lab cleanup can cost $10,000, which the DEA covers.

Because of the chemicals in the air due to the cooking process, meth is a danger to those inside the house. Police and firefighters wear equipment to eliminate their exposure to such chemicals, Francis said, but children and future residents are often not so lucky.

Children living in meth houses, because of their exposure to the fumes, often develop mental disabilities that can be permanent.

"So often, children become involved as innocent victims of methamphetamine manufacturing," Francis said. "These small, helpless children are completely dependent upon their parents and are commonly exposed to potentially explosive operating laboratories with chemicals and deadly gases."

Any children found in a meth lab or a former meth lab are immediately taken to the Children Youth and Families Division and then taken to a hospital for testing, Francis said.

Even after a meth lab is busted, the fumes from methamphetamine labs linger for many years, even though the cooking process takes as little as five hours. The owners are required by law to replace the carpet and drywall to remove any lingering chemicals, but often that does not happen.

During DPS' recent operation with the Department of Probation and Parole, officers checked in on a house on 35th Street that four years ago was used as a meth lab. What they found, Francis said, was a new family, including children, living in the home permeated by the odor of the meth lab.

"We could still detect the odor of meth in the house," Francis said, adding that a "house can become contaminated by the first cook."

Now, meth houses are flagged at the county assessor's office, after which a notice is required on the deed to alert potential homebuyers.

How police are combating meth

A new state law goes into effect July 1 that will require retailers to keep ephedrine-containing medicine out of the reach of shoppers. Customers will need a prescription for the medications or be required to present identification. The state is also limiting the amount of various medicines that customers can purchase without a prescription.

Some retailers, like Walgreens, are already limiting customers' access to ephedrine, Francis said.

But police are also asking for the public's help in combating meth. While officers do patrol the city, they need residents to call with their concerns. Francis said even if meth suspicions prove false, police are willing to "knock and talk," stopping by to see if there is any evidence of a meth lab visible from outside the structure and talking to the residents if possible.

What to do if a lab is nearby

Meth users are often violent because of the drug, and Francis urged that residents call police rather than get personally involved.

"If you come across meth users in the street, it is common that they are very violent," he said.

Likewise, citizens should not enter a meth house because of the dangers of explosion or chemical exposure. Entering the building, Francis said, is best left to the police and firefighters in the proper equipment.

Francis offered two numbers residents can call: the DPS non-emergency number (891-7226) and the Crime Stoppers number (843-STOP). Callers can remain anonymous when calling either number, Francis said.

Although there is not a second methamphetamine class scheduled, Francis said they are merely waiting to set a date. In the meantime, DPS is hosting the Citizen's Public Safety Academy, a 12-week course beginning July 25. That course will cover the gambit of jobs and responsibilities with DPS, including firefighters, paramedics, and dispatch workers.


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