Risky business: Methamphetamine

The big question is why meth labs exist in Columbiana County.

Last month the county drug task force, Salem Police Department and the County Sheriff’s Office discovered the sixth meth lab within a year. This one was discovered at a West Pershing Street home.

A week earlier the drug task force, DEA out of Youngstown, New Waterford and East Palestine Police departments raided a meth lab at a Silliman Street residence in New Waterford.

On Dec. 29 county deputies went to an East Eighth Street home in Salem to serve a warrant and discovered a meth lab in an upstairs bedroom. Fire department and hazardous cleanup personnel are called to help secure safety in very dangerous situations.

Last year the drug task force handled 148 cases, up from 85 cases for each year from 2001 to 2012. In 2013 they seized more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, 530 grams of crack cocaine and 140 grams of heroin. Heroin has been the drug of choice in the county since 2005, reported task force commander Lt. Brian McLaughlin in January when that agency received $100,000 in additional funding from the county’s general fund. The ingredients are easy to find, easy to make and cheap, he said.

Methamphetamine, advises the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is an extremely addictive stimulant drug. It is a white, odorless, bitter tasting, crystalline powder that can be taken by mouth, smoked, snorted, dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. Smoking or injection delivers the drug to the brain very quickly for an immediate and intense euphoria that doesn’t last very long. Users “binge and crash” because they repeatedly dose themselves.

Users may experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia and mood disturbances and display violent behavior over a long term period of use. Other symptoms may include psychoses like paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions such as the sensation of insects crawling under the skin.

“Chronic methamphetamine use is accompanied by chemical and molecular changes in the brain. Imaging studies have shown changes in the activity of the dopamine system that are associated with reduced motor skills and impaired verbal learning. In studies of chronic methamphetamine users, severe structural and functional changes have been found in areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory, which may account for many of the emotional and cognitive problems observed in these individuals,” advises NIDA.

Hazardous chemicals are used in the production of meth (aka crystal, chalk, ice).

“Toxicity from these chemicals can remain in the environment around a methamphetamine production lab long after the lab is shut down causing a wide range of health problems for people living in the area,” NIDA informed.

Some cooks are using the one-pot method, throwing all the chemicals together in one container and waiting for the chemical reaction to create the meth, reported Mary Ann Greier of the Salem News.

The raid in New Waterford resulted in Children Services being called in. Published reports advised that, though the children were in school at the time of the raid by authorities, they would be attended to medically due to the exposure to the toxic chemicals and to a natural gas leak in the home. They were to be placed in alternative custody.

Why do meth labs do business in Columbiana County?

How do you know if your home ever housed a meth lab?

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information about these programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. OhioMHAS and United Way funds are used to educate the public on such issues.