Pubdate: Sun, 23 Apr 2006
Source: Daily Times, The (TN)
Copyright: 2006 Horvitz Newspapers
Author: Jessica Stith
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Meth is ugly. The pictures are too graphic to display.

It is the one drug you cannot hide from other people because the 
bloody pits in your flesh are too obvious.

Methamphetamine users feel like bugs are crawling under their skin, 
and they pick and scratch until all that is left are open sores -- 
but the bugs were never really there.

Blount County District Attorney Mike Flynn described a poster of a 
meth user in Tennessee whose arms are covered in open wounds due to 
imaginary "meth bugs."

Flynn said the poster makes most people cringe, but it is used in the 
Meth Destroys campaign to catch the attention of youth who may be 
thinking of trying meth for the first time.

"When we go out and we show these (posters), adults are immediately 
like, 'Ugh, turn that over,"' Flynn said. "The kids are like, 'That's 
really gross.' But it seems to get through."

Meth Destroys in an educational campaign about methamphetamine that 
was organized by the Tennessee District Attorney General Conference, 
and 11 health-care organizations have joined this campaign to fight meth.

Meth is also known as speed, crank, chalk, fire glass, ice, tweak, 
uppers, yaba and more. It has been produced heavily in counties in 
the Cumberland Plateau area, is being produced in Blount County and 
is now being brought up from Mexico with stronger and deadlier 
ingredients, Flynn said.

Public Information Officer of the Blount County Sheriff's Office 
Marian O'Briant said the 5th Judicial Drug Task Force reported it has 
worked 42 cases of people who were promoting methamphetamine 
manufacturing since Jan. 1, 2005. Most of those cases have gone 
before a grand jury for indictments.

O'Briant said the drug task force has also worked with three cases 
involving meth labs, including a mobile meth lab, since Jan. 1, 2005.

According to a press release from the Tennessee District Attorney 
General Conference, a growing number of people with meth-related 
injuries are showing up in emergency rooms in Tennessee's rural and 
urban areas. Meth abusers account for significant costs to hospitals 
and health-care providers.

Gov. Phil Bredesen acted in 2005 to stifle the production of meth in 
the state when he and the General Assembly enacted laws to restrict 
availability of meth's main ingredient, ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, 
in pharmacies.

Bredesen and the legislature also allocated $7 million to attack the 
state's meth problem. Of this $7 million, $2.4 million was designated 
for increased criminal penalties for meth-related crimes.

Flynn said Blount County's District Attorney's Office is approaching 
this project from two sides.

On the criminal side, prosecutors are seeking tough penalties for 
those convicted on meth-related charges.

On the educational side, they are trying to educate students and 
their families on the dangers of meth use and what citizens can do if 
they believe a meth lab is in their neighborhood.

Flynn said meth is definitely here but that Blount County is lucky it 
has not been hit as hard as on the Cumberland Plateau.

"I give a lot of credit to our law enforcement, who started years ago 
building contacts with pharmacists, places like the co-op and other 
places people may purchase the ingredients for meth," Flynn said.

According to Flynn, most of the meth seen in our area was "home 
cooked." He said the county's law enforcement is now watching out for 
what is called "Mexican meth." This more potent form of meth is 
manufactured in Mexico and is being shipped north across the U.S. border.

Partners in the Meth Destroys campaign include University of 
Tennessee Medical Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 
Erlanger Health System, Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, 
Methodist Healthcare, Mountain States Health Alliance, Tennessee 
Dental Association, Tennessee Dental Hygienists Association, 
Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Hospital Association, 
Tennessee Poison Center and the cities of Nashville, Chattanooga, 
Memphis, Jackson and Johnson City.

Flynn said he has been told meth is having a huge impact on 
health-care organizations. Vanderbilt Medical Center was recently 
overwhelmed with people from the plateau area and west of Nashville 
who were burned in the production of meth.

"I've been to a conference and heard them speak on how tremendously 
expensive it is to treat people with these severe burns, and 
typically, they deal with people without insurance," Flynn said.

The National Association of Counties reported in 2005 that 68 percent 
of hospital officials have seen an increase in the number of 
meth-related emergency room visits over the past three years.

Under the Meth Free Tennessee Act of 2005, health professionals are 
required to report meth lab burns and injuries to local law 
enforcement -- similar to the existing requirement for medical 
officials to report gunshot and knife wounds.

Flynn said Tennessee's district attorneys are working statewide and 
countywide to make sure medical professionals in health organizations 
are well informed on identifying and treating cases of meth abuse, 
addiction, lab burns and children who are involved in a home with a meth lab.

For law enforcement and health officials in Tennessee, the injury to 
the flesh, the damage to families, the cost to society, is too ugly to ignore.
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