The Payson Police Department's aggressive pursuit of methamphetamine peddlers has helped control Rim country's drug problem.
But, with meth's popularity in this region, along with its ease of production, cheap prices and lasting effect, Commander Don Engler said enforcement must be ongoing.
"It's the drug of choice in the Southwest," said Engler. "It was made and sold illegally by the motorcycle gangs in Southern California, and it's grown from that point."
To hear about the drug's impact in this corner of the Southwest, local residents attended a townwide block watch meeting Saturday at Payson Town Hall.
The presentation, by the Gila County Narcotics Task Force, which has been given to local schools and organizations, has received rave reviews for its candid coverage of the facts surrounding one of the area's most prevalent drugs.
"Meth causes people to become paranoid and can cause them to become very violent," a GCNTF detective said. "(Meth) also causes excessive sweating, body odor, open sores and bad teeth."
Meth, also known as crank, speed, crystal or ice, can cause heart and brain damage.
It wears down the abuser's body, and tears apart their psyche and emotional well-being.
Payson Police Department Officer Michelle Dyer, a 22-year veteran on the Phoenix police force, said the drug devastates whole families.
"I've seen children suffer in filthy living conditions -- unfed and abandoned," said Dyer. "Grandparents end up having to care for their grandchildren."
"We see that a lot," added fellow PPD Officer Joni Varga. "Especially here in Payson where people come to retire."
"Addicts steal from every member of their family and friends because they need money to buy the drug," said Dyer. "That's the only thing that matters in their life -- getting money to buy their next fix."
According to the task force detective, meth is an extremely addictive drug because it causes the brain to release a feel-good hormone that brings on a feeling of euphoria.
Besides the extremely addictive properties of meth, it is widely available because it can be produced using store-bought household items.
The over-the-counter decongestant, pseudoephedrine, is the main ingredient in meth. "Pharmacists keep an eye on who is buying pseudoephedrine," he said. "They have surveillance cameras and they are very helpful to us."
The detective described the meth production process as time-consuming and dangerous.
"These are volatile chemicals and usually the people making meth are high," he said. "That's the reason why there are explosions at meth labs."
Law enforcement officers must take extra precautions when busting a drug lab to keep from being harmed by hazardous chemicals.
Exposure to the ingredients of meth can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat as well as damage to the central nervous system, lungs, liver and kidneys.
"People also need to be careful when they are out hiking in the woods because you can stumble upon a lab or a dump site," the detective added.
"The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) used to clean up meth labs, but now the property owner is liable for the cost of clean up," he said. "That's why it is so important for property owners to screen their tenants."
The detective also said that for every 1 pound of meth produced, there are 6 pounds of toxic waste.
"They will just dump the byproducts in the yard," he said.
The task force and the Payson Police Department's Methamphetamine Enforcement Program have been effective in ridding the area of meth labs, but the detective said they still pop up, such as the one found in a cave near Shoofly Ruins last month.
Meanwhile, Varga focused on helping the addict, and stressed the intervention of family, friends and organizations as partners in this effort.
"You see that the drug takes over their life and they don't even realize it," said Varga. "Especially with the younger people I've run into because they don't know how to get out of it. It consumes them."
Addicts, and the families and friends of substance abusers have many resources in the Rim country to turn to for help.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a great resource for all substance abuse issues. For more information, or a schedule of meetings contact AA at (928) 474-3620.
Rim Guidance Center also provides substance abuse classes and intervention services. They can be reached at (928) 474-3303.
For those seeking a spiritual element, Calvary Chapel operates a men's home and recovery program.
"We really stress that (recovery) has to be the user's decision," said youth pastor Isaac Bradford. "If someone's trying to force them into changing, it doesn't work."
Contact Calvary Chapel for meeting times at (928) 468-0801.
To report a meth lab or suspected drug activity, call the task force at (928) 474-0728.
Possible signs of a meth lab in your neighborhood
- Frequent visitors at all times of the day or night.
- Activity at the house is usually at odd hours of the day or late at night.
- Occupants appear unemployed, yet seem to have plenty of money and pay bills with cash.
- Occupants are unfriendly, appear secretive about activities.
- Extensive security at the home.
- Windows blackened or curtains always drawn.
- Occupants go outside to smoke cigarettes.
- Chemical odors coming from the house, garbage or detached buildings.
- Garbage contains numerous bottles and containers.
- The presence of coffee filters, bed sheets or other material stained from filtering red phosphorus or other chemicals.
- Occupant sets his garbage for pick up in another neighbor's collection area.
- Evidence of chemical or waste dumping such as burn pits or dead spots in the yard.