Drug Demand Reduction Program hosts meth use awareness conference

9 Sep 2005 | Cpl. K. A. Thompson

The Tri-Command Drug Demand and Reduction Program and several law enforcement and social agencies are teaming up to offer the local community a conference on the dangers of methamphetamines, Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Technical College of the Lowcountry.

The conference, called Meth’s Hidden Victims: Drug Endangered Communities, will include workshops for professionals and a general awareness forum for the public.

The training will cover the intervention of law enforcement, first responders and child protective services personnel on the scene of clandestine methamphetamine labs, according to Gayle Wierzbicki, the DDRP coordinator for the Tri-Command.

“Our main goal is to increase awareness that it’s out there,” Wierzbicki said. “We don’t think it’s an epidemic now, but meth is coming. We need to get in there before we actually have a problem, so we can be known as a community that deters meth use.”

Topics of discussion will include information relative to community leaders and professionals such as environmental awareness, public administration and toxic waste disposal, as well as medical issues and addiction treatment. However, the conference is open to the public, and because of the importance of the issue, and the rising problem with methamphetamine use, anyone interested in learning is encouraged to attend, according to Wierzbicki.

“One reason the conference is important to attend is because it effects everybody,” Wierzbicki said. “I think anyone who’s a parent, interested in the environment and the toxic effects that meth can have on it, or anyone that wants to learn what the effects are in general should come to the conference.”

From the physiological and psychological damage of users to the environmental destruction caused by clandestine labs, communities have dealt with public health and safety consequences as production of the drugs have spread eastward from the Western United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The consequences of meth are undeniable for the abuser, for the trafficker, for the environment, for communities, and for the innocent children who live in filth and neglect,” said DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy in an Aug. 30 DEA press release. “Methamphetamine abuse has ruined families, destroyed neighborhoods and put a tremendous strain on all levels of law enforcement and social services.”

Methamphetamines can be taken orally, intranasally (by snorting powder), by intravenous injection and by smoking. The central nervous system actions that result from taking even small amounts of methamphetamine include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, convulsions and paranoia, according to the DEA.

Several severe physiological consequences may result from the use of methamphetamines, including addiction, according to Wierzbicki.

“The first experience is a sense of euphoria, but it’s actually killing the pleasure center in your brain,” Wierzbicki said. “That means a user will need more meth every time. It’s so addictive that by taking it once you’re an abuser, and by taking it a second time you’re an addict.”

All methamphetamines are synthetic, and are “cooked” in clandestine laboratories that may be found in hotels, cars and neighborhood homes. The process of making meth in both small and large laboratories involves the risk of explosions and fires, and yields five pounds of toxic waste per pound of methamphetamines, which may be releases in the air and waterways, according to the DEA.

Some of the chemicals used to produce the drugs include battery acid, Freon, paint thinner and cold tablets. Most of the ingredients can be purchased over the counter, which is another cause for concern, according to Wierzbicki.

Methamphetamine use is a local, state and federal issue that needs attention, even in the Beaufort area, according to Wierzbicki. Tri-Command residents who want to learn more about the dangers associated methamphetamines can register for the conference by calling the Child Abuse Prevention Association at 524-4350 or Wierzbicki at 228-7210.