Citizens Police Academy: the ravages of meth, part six of 10

 Citizens Police Academy is a ten week course detailing the operations of the Sevierville Police Dept. The class is an outreach program offered free to the public by the SPD.  

The ravages of crystal methamphetamine was the primary focus of week six of the CPA. According to Det. Kevin Bush, crystal meth has become an epidemic in communities across the country. The problem emerged in 1999 when the SPD busted the first meth lab in Sevier County. The problem became an epidemic and by the year 2003 more than 14,000 labs were seized statewide.

10 yera of meth decayLawmakers in Nashville have enacted laws that have hindered the production of meth. One such law regulates the amount of pseudoephedrine a consumer can purchase. The drug is a central component needed for the production of the illegal substance. While the state has worked to help law enforcement in the combatting of the illicit drug trade, law enforcement officials suffered a setback this year when the Obama administration cut federal funding to the states in their war against meth. However, the tougher laws regulating the ingredients needed for the drug has made an impact on the production of the drug. Since July of this year, only one meth lab has been busted in Sevier County.

Bush displayed the ingredients used in the production of meth which includes pseudoephedrine, lithium from batteries, Red Devil lye (a drain cleaner), dry ice, propane, muriatic acid, Coleman fuel and anhydrous ammonia. Any of these ingredients could be deadly if taken independently and are extremely hazardous if mixed.

The most popular method for mixing the concoction is known as the “one pot method.” Meth manufacturers can mix the ingredients in a plastic soda bottle. However, the volatile method often explodes causing serious burns or even death.

Bush displayed photos of a woman depicting her physical changes she experienced in the four years she used the toxic drug. Meth produces a euphoric high on the first use which can quickly lead to addiction. The muriatic acid in the substance causes the teeth to dissolve. Users frequently begin experiencing numerous health problems caused by loss of appetite and the effects of the drug. Many experience dramatic weight loss, severe insomnia and severe skin lesions that often leave open wounds on their faces or elsewhere that ooze pus and never heal. Kidney failure and heart failure from continued use of the drug is common among users. In essence, crystal meth use is a slow, painful form of suicide.meth head

In jails, meth users must be isolated from other inmates. This allows jailers to decontaminate the user and prevent them from bartering urine and scabs to other inmates who may want them in an effort to get high by eating the scabs or drinking the urine.

The drug trade and the war on drugs is escalating as evidenced by the incarceration rates that have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. According to Bush, in 1980 there were 23,900 Americans incarcerated for drug use or possession. In 2013, that number had escalated dramatically to 346,479.

Bush said prescription pain killers are now the most abused drugs in the United States. Abusers of oxycontin, roxycontin and other prescription strength pain killers. Many addicts have resorted to home invasions to get the drug and, in some cases, users have pulled armed robberies at pharmacies demanding drugs instead of cash.

Crystal meth can be snorted, eaten, smoked or inhaled. When meth is mixed in a home the house must be decontaminated at a cost of as much as $13,000 per meth lab. The cost has been draining many budgets of law enforcement agencies across the nation.

“As much as 75 percent of the crimes we see in regard to theft or robbery is drug related,” said Bush.

The penalty for trafficking meth is substantial. Meth traffickers that are caught with 10 grams of the substance can face five years in prison if the trafficking crosses state lines and the federal government gets involved in the prosecution of the case. The trafficker can get 10 years for 100 grams. In federal prison this sentence must be served day for day. On the state level the crime of trafficking is prosecuted as any other drug crime. Offenders could be out in as little 2-3 years. Many law enforcement officials are asking state legislators to enact tougher sentences as the currents statutes are not severe enough and has little effect on deterrence.

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