Meth use on rise in county

Methamphetamine has quickly become the drug of choice in San
Benito County as local narcotic use continues to increase, drug
officials said.
Methamphetamine has quickly become the drug of choice in San Benito County as local narcotic use continues to increase, drug officials said.

“We are seeing a significant increase in meth use,” said Bob Cooke, commander of the Unified Narcotic Enforcement Team.

Cooke said although marijuana use is still prevalent in the area, the rapid growth in methamphetamine use is undeniable.

The stimulant’s popularity among drug users has, within a short time, surpassed that of cocaine.

“It’s half the price of cocaine and the effects last longer than cocaine,” Cooke said.

He said a large part of the problem with methamphetamine is that users become addicted before they realize it.

“Some people use it once and they can become addicted to it,” Cooke said. “It’s almost an immediate addiction. It’s a real scary drug.”

Methamphetamine, also known as “crank,” was developed early in the last century from its parent drug amphetamine and was originally used in nasal decongestants, bronchial inhalers and in the treatment of narcolepsy and obesity.

In the 1970s, drug dealers learned how to make the drug using a variety of over-the-counter drugs and common household chemicals.

The ingredients can include over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel, and antifreeze.

Cooke said methamphetamine use has become even scarier lately because, “We’re seeing a lot more children involved.”

He said recently that dealers and abusers are allowing their small children to be near them when they are dealing or abusing.

“We’ve had to call in Child Protective Services several times recently to take care of these kids and have them removed from the home,” Cooke said.

Cooke, who has been involved with drug enforcement for about 20 years, said he has not seen anything like this with the involvement of children since the days when heroin was a popular drug.

“It used to be like that with heroin, but it wasn’t as outrageously dangerous as meth,” Cooke said. “(Meth addicts) develop this really paranoid state exposing their kids to not only the potential violence of their own, but to the drug culture itself.”

The increase in methamphetamine use is not only being seen by law enforcement but those trying to treat residents with addiction problems.

“Probably 80 percent of our referrals now are for methamphetamine use,” addiction specialist, Sydney Portrum, with the San Benito County Substance Abuse Program said. “(San Benito County) is a mecca in the making of methamphetamines.”

Portrum said because of the county’s large wilderness areas, “there are still a lot of places out there to hide a meth lab.”

He said the best way to treat methamphetamine addiction is to get someone who is hooked to a residential treatment facility for about 60 days.

“The drug is out of their system in three days, but it takes about 60 days for their brain to recover from the damage the drug has done,” Portrum said.

A crank user’s brain is so severely damaged that they can find themselves living in a highly paranoid state and can be subject to drug induced hallucinations and other psychological problems.

“You expose your brain chemically to schizophrenia, psychosis and sometimes to irreversible brain damage,” Portrum said. “Violence is a very characteristic side effect of meth use.”

He said one of the saddest parts about the growing use of meth is the drug – which has primarily been used by young adults – is starting to trickle down into the teenage population.

County Sheriff Curtis Hill said the department has seen the drug work its way into the local high schools and is calling for the community to pull together to combat the spread of methamphetamine.

“This stuff covers all cross sections of our community. There is no one that is immune to this,” Hill said. “The kids out there in the community know who (the users) are and who is dealing this.”

Hill said parents need to recognize the warning signs of methamphetamine use.

“If they have kids who are staying up all night hanging out with their buddies and sleeping all day to about 3 p.m., parents may want to start paying attention to this,” Hill said.

Even neighbors who suspect drug activity is taking place can help.

“They have got to call us, and they can’t tolerate this going on in our community,” Hill said.

Leave your comments