Pubdate: Thu, 16 Feb 2006
Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)
Copyright: 2006 Independent Publishing Company, a division of E.W. Scripps
Author: Pearce Adams


VANNA -- A former methamphetamine user cringed and stroked her 
daughter's face as a Georgia sheriff told others about the horrors of 
using the drug. Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland, speaking to about 
150 people at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Vanna, in Elbert 
County, talked for about 60 minutes, mixing humor and horror as he 
described the addiction and its consequences. Also speaking were 
other investigators and several former meth users. The program was 
part of an outreach effort by the sheriff to inform the community 
about the dangers and problem of meth.

The drug is spreading rapidly, filling jails and leading to an 
increase in burglaries as users search for a way to buy it, he said. 
Kelli Franks of Vanna didn't need to be reminded.

Before the meeting began, she said meth "looks like a party thing. 
That's the trap." Ms. Franks said her addiction began with her first 
use, and it took "seven years to get free."

The path was not easy, she said. "I got busted and lost everything."

Sheriff Cleveland stunned the crowd with images of users -- before 
using meth and after a few years of addiction. Scarred faces, missing 
and decayed teeth, and body sores were common sights.

Earlier, Betty Butler of Royston and Hayleigh Lewis, 16, of Hartwell 
were among those filling the church. Ms. Butler said she didn't 
understand the drug and wanted to know more.

Ms. Lewis was about to hear the presentation for a second time. The 
drug appears to be less of a problem at school than alcohol, she 
said. But "it's amazing to look at the pictures," she said. "The 
features (of meth users) change, and they age so much."

Sheriff Cleveland told the crowd that 200 users have been arrested in 
Hart County. Ms. Franks and one other person are the only two who 
have managed to overcome their addiction.

Other arrests have ranged in age from 14 years to a grandfather, who 
was charged with trafficking the drug, he said.

"And if you're even caught with a trace amount, it's a felony," 
Sheriff Cleveland said.

Ms. Butler said she plans to spread his message. "I intend to," she said.
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