Pubdate: Wed, 23 Oct 2002
Source: Daily Mountain Eagle (Jasper, AL)
Copyright: 2002 Daily Mountain Eagle
Author: Chris Burroughs, The Daily Mountain Eagle
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Parents and citizens concerned with the ever present drug problem got a 
look at various aspects of treatment, prevention and law enforcement at a 
special forum Wednesday night.

The Jasper City Schools Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Advisory 
Council hosted the third annual Drug Awareness Meeting, which brought 
together members of law enforcement, court system, treatment centers and 
others to give parents and others an idea of what they were dealing with.

"This is an important issue not only in Jasper, but across the nation," 
said Jasper City Schools superintendent Philip Woods as he opened the meeting.

The audience got a look at some of the drugs that are out there and what 
these drugs are doing to teens, as well as how big the problem really has 
become. Steve Hulsey with the Walker County Juvenile Court said a recent 
survey done by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse said an 
estimated 15.9 million (7.1 percent) of Americans age 12 and older and had 
used an illegal drug, with about 6.3 percent of the population current drug 
users. He said the use of marijuana, cocaine, non-medical use of pain 
relievers and tranquilizers has also increased.

"The problem is so pervasive, that sometimes it is difficult to really tell 
just how bad the problem currently is in Walker County," Hulsey said.

Walker County District Attorney Charles Baker gave a small glimpse of just 
how bad it is in Walker County. Baker said of all the cases on a circuit 
court docket in the county, 20 to 25 percent are drug cases. The number 
goes up if you factor in crimes related to drug use, including burglary and 
forging prescriptions. Jasper compares about the same with other cities its 
size across the nation in drug problems.

"If you ask any DA or any chief of police or any law enforcement officer 
anywhere in America what the No. 1 is problem facing their department, 
their community or their state, they will tell you right off it is drugs," 
Baker said.

The average person automatically thinks of cocaine or marijuana when they 
hear about drugs. However, methamphetamine has become one of the more 
popular drugs in the last few years. Alan Wilson with the Walker County 
Narcotics Enforcement Team said when the unit first encountered a meth lab 
in 1996, it took up the whole inside of a mobile home and took at least 
three days to make. Now, labs can be small enough to be put in the back of 
a truck and can turn out 80 to 100 grams of meth in 45 minutes to an hour 
and be sold for $100 to $125 a gram. The drug can be made out of a variety 
of chemicals, including anhydrous ammonia, sulfuric or hyrdochloric acid, 
and ether.

The physical and mental problems that drugs can cause are enormous. 
Psychiatrist Dr. Armand Schachter said when diagnosing adults with 
different mental illnesses such as major or manic depression, or 
schizophrenia, he asked if they had used drugs.

"Over 50 percent of them said yes, they did use drugs," Schachter said, 
adding that the younger a person starts abusing drugs, the greater the 
chance of developing these problems.

Carol Compton, a nurse in the emergency department at Baptist Medical 
Center-Walker, said her department has to deal with the effects of drug use 
on a regular basis. She said when she first started working there, they 
would average maybe two or three overdoses a month.

"Now, from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, we will average eight 
to 10 overdoses," she said.

Compton said many of the people they see are repeat offenders, who come in, 
get treated and are right back in a few weeks. Some never make it out of 
the hospital, with six deaths in the past two years from overdoses, 
including one about two weeks ago.

The forum ended with Kristen Day from the Bradford Clinic in Birmingham. 
She said her organization offers detoxification, in patient, out patient 
and partial hospitalization and other methods based on a 12-step program. 
For a person to get over the problem, it will often take them hitting rock 
bottom, Day said. She also directed much of her discussion to adults, who 
shesaid kids will emulate whether they are involved with good or bad things.

"If there are adults who have problems, what are your children going to 
follow?," Day asked.

The forum was one of several activities scheduled during Red Ribbon Week, a 
week long emphasis in schools and in communities of staying free of drugs.
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