Pubdate: Thu, 23 Feb 2006
Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)
Copyright: 2006 Independent Publishing Company, a division of E.W. Scripps
Author: David Williams
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


WALHALLA - Methamphetamine, or just meth, is being called the
fastest-growing drug problem in the country, and Oconee County is not

"It makes the crack epidemic of the '80s look like kids eating candy,"
said Michael Miller, director of the Anderson-Oconee Regional
Forensics Lab.

Mr. Miller said the number of meth cases his lab professes has gone
from 12 percent to 68 percent in just the last couple of years.

More than 50 people turned out Thursday at St. John's Lutheran Church
in Walhalla to learn more about the epidemic at the second South
Carolina Meth Watch program to be held in Oconee County.

"We had a full house in Westminster in December," said Elaine Bailey,
director of the Oconee County Department of Social Services. "If the
demand for these type programs continue we will certainly keep
offering them."

Ms. Bailey said she hopes to get the program titled "Methamphetamine
In Our Community," into the school system to help guidance counselors
and teachers recognize the signs of meth problems.

"Meth is a big problem among women," Ms. Bailey said. "Where other
drugs and alcohol usually lean toward men 3-to-1, meth is 50-50. It's
attractive to women, especially for weight loss, and women are the
primary caregivers for children, which causes real problems."

Jason Peavy, Assistant South Carolina Attorney General and coordinator
of the Meth Watch Program, said that more legislation is being written
to punish those who put children in danger by using meth or making
meth around children. "Eighty percent of my cases are meth-related,"
Mr. Peavy said.

Mr. Peavy said retailers are finding ways to monitor sales of the
common items that are used to make meth. Store employees are being
trained to watch for people buying large amounts of the products, the
products are being placed near checkout counters or have surveillance
cameras focused on the aisles and large wholesale outlets are placing
fewer of the products on the shelves.

Signs that someone may be operating a meth lab include a strange odor
similar to cat urine, unusual amounts of batteries, iodine, drain
cleaner and cold and asthma tablets.

"Oconee County is no different than any other county," said Lt. Ken
Washington with the Sheriff Office's Narcotics Division. "People don't
see it, then they're surprised when it's in their neighborhood. Meth
is out of control."

Oconee County Sheriff James Singleton said his office could arrange
for a meth program to be presented to any civic group, church or school.

"The more we get the citizens involved, the better chance we have to
keep it out of our neighborhoods and away from our kids," Sheriff
Singleton said.
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