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State Police: Methamphetamine problem has grown in past decade

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

(Left) ISP Meth Team Chuck Tharp, (left) and Chad Hilton told Clay County Breakfast Optimists about the dangers of methamphetamine.

Indiana State Police created a Meth team in the 1990s with eight troopers covering the state. Approximately 80 troopers will cover the state this year.

"For every 100 people who try meth, 80 of them will be hooked for life. Drug treatment centers don't know what to do. Nothing seems to work. We have to keep people from even trying it. That's the only way to stop this killer," Chad Hilton, ISP, told Clay County Breakfast Optimists Saturday.

He showed pictures of Bobby Taylor of New Hampshire. He weighed about 190 pounds at his first meth arrest in Feb. 20, 1993. His fourth arrest for meth was July 8,1994, and his weight had dropped to under 100 pounds and his teeth were completely rotted. He died six months later.

"We've only seen meth in the past five years, so we really don't know the long-term effects. This is the closest picture we have of long-term and it took only two years for this man's organs and skeletal system to deteriorate to the point of death," he said.

Short-term effects of meth include increased alterness and heartrate, loss of appetite, aggressive behavior and paranoia. Long-term effects are depression, hallucinations, kidney, lung, liver and brain damage, cancer and stroke. A meth addict will have dilated pupils, severe weight loss, a repulsive chemical body odor, sweating, central pallor (skin discoloration), bad teeth, open sores from picking at the skin and anhydrous ammonia burns resulting in the manufacture of meth.

For $100, one gram of cocaine will produce a one-time high lasting 20-60 minutes. For the same $100, one gram of meth will give the user three to four highs lasting six-eight hours each. It is sold in torn-off corners of baggies with a twist tie and can be snorted up the nose, smoked, ingested or injected. Slang terms are meth, crack, speed, and for the heavy users, anhydrous and commercial.

"By the time a user becomes a cook (a manufacturer), he or she has lost everything. They've lost their job, so they can't buy it anymore and their friends have gotten tired of supplying it to them. They've lost their family and perhaps their homes. They only care about two things: Crank and cops," Chuck Tharp, ISP, said.

When friends teach others how to manufacture meth, clan labs are formed, police say.

There were six of these Indiana "clan labs" busted in 1995. Last year, 983 clan labs were busted with 90 percent of all drug cases in the Midwest attributed to meth.

Many turn to the barter system of trading supplies used in the manufacture of meth for the finished product. Meth will look like crystal clear white powder to a sticky peanut butter brown depending on the pills used and the purity of the meth.

Supplies include pills containing ephedrine or sudafed, solvents, ether, lithium from batteries, hydrochloric gas, sulfuric acid, salt and anhydrous ammonia which can be purchased at local stores for a very little minimal investment. Tharp said anhydrous ammonia isn't necessary to manufacture meth, but without it, users say it tastes nasty. A farmer can buy anhydrous ammonia for around $500 for a tank. It is sold on the black market for $300-$400 per gallon.

He said no electrical source is needed in the manufacturing of meth and that's why it is often discovered in the woods and even in cars. Meth is highly explosive. One quart of ether equals one stick of dynamite. Gases in the smoke during production are odorless and tasteless but deadly. Toxic waste left over from the manufacture of meth has been found everywhere from car wash trash containers to ditches and in state parks.

State Police meth facts:

- Women are more likely to use meth than cocaine because of the associated weight loss and increased energy

- The average meth cook annually teaches 10 others how to make it

- Every pound of meth produced leaves behind five-six pounds of toxic waste and clean up costs about $150,000 per site

- Meth makes up 90 percent of all drug cases in the Midwest

- Meth induces paranoia which leads to murders and suicides

- Meth abusers inflict domestic violence on their spouses and abuse and neglect their children

- Meth abusers are the hardest to treat, with 75-85 percent of them becoming lifetime abusers

- Meth use leads to brain damage, heart, liver, and kidney failure stroke, and attacks the skeletal system

- Meth abusers think of only two things - crank and cops

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