Southwest Behavioral/Rim Guidance To Target Teen Meth Use With Grant

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Southwest Behavioral Health/ Rim Guidance Center has received a grant to assist the Northern Gila County area in addressing the growing problems of substance abuse in the community.

The focus will be on underage consumption/binge drinking and methamphetamine abuse, said Darlene Duncan, community mobilization coordinator for the project.

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"We have recently picked up information that there is currently meth use at Payson High School, but primarily it's marijuana use," said Gordon Gartner, Chief of Police, Payson Police Department.

Other groups will be targeted as well, she added.

Police Chief Gordon Gartner cites a Dec. 7 arrest as an example of the seriousness of the area's substance abuse problems. Although the suspect and victim are not underage, Gartner said it proves methamphetamine use and violent crimes usually go hand in hand. Police arrested Todd Aaron Thomas, 36, for kidnapping, aggravated assault and DUI/Drugs. Police say Thomas kidnapped a 42-year-old Payson woman in the early morning and assaulted her. Gartner said police believe he was under the influence of methamphetamines at the time. "When we arrested him for DUI, there appeared to be meth in his body and upon a search warrant, we found meth and paraphernalia in his home," he said.

Meth use at PHS

Although Gartner can't cite any statistics, he said there are meth users at Payson High School.

"From time to time, we see increases in its use in the high school, based on availability to the students from local drug dealers. Sometimes we arrest people and we then get information that someone is selling meth to students," said Gartner. "We have recently picked up information that there is currently meth use at Payson High School, but primarily it's marijuana use," he said.

The $28,000 grant to Rim Guidance will pay for the part-time position held by Duncan, a licensed independent substance abuse counselor. She currently serves as a part-time prevention coordinator for the agency.

"So many of us dealing with the courts, and all agencies dealing with kids with methamphetamine problems or who are drinking, see the need for more outreach," said Duncan.

"The grant will allow us to increase our services. It's a community problem, it's not just a few people's problems. With meth, we are looking at other crimes, too," she said. Meth users often commit crimes such as burglaries and domestic violence, Duncan added.

What is methamphetamine?

Duncan said methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that has a high potential for abuse. She noted meth can be made in a person's home, using over-the-counter ingredients.

What does meth do?

Information from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America states, "Meth can make a user awake and alert and can keep him or her up for hours and even days. After a "binge," a user will inevitably crash, and can become severely depressed and even suicidal."

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, meth users are prone to violence and neglectful behavior that can affect their children and neighbors. The chemicals used in meth production are flammable and highly toxic, posing a twofold threat to the environment and residents.

How to recognize a meth user?

The meth user could be anyone -- a teen or parent, urban dweller to city person, students to professionals -- anyone in any neighborhood.

"Arizona is the hotbed for meth, and the problem is our proximity to the border. We still have meth labs here and there, but the majority is coming across the border. Every time we turn around, meth is connected to some kind of crime in our town," Gartner said.

Binge drinking is also a problem among teenagers

According to a National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, binge drinking means drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day.

The survey report noted an estimated 46 million people, 12 or older, were binge drinkers. In 2000, one in five underage people, ages 12 to 20, was a binge drinker. Also, underage people who reported binge drinking were almost nine times more likely to have used marijuana/ hashish during the past month and were at least six times more likely to have used any illicit drug other than marijuana during the past month compared with underage persons who did not binge drink.

Duncan said she is currently working with the Payson Police Department to offer joint presentations to community groups about the problems of methamphetamines and binge drinking.

Gartner admits alcohol abuse is a problem at Payson High school, too, but adds it's not as bad as it is in some schools. "Alcohol abuse is in our high school. We arrest high school students at parties, and we're very tough on them," said Gartner.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, by the time students have reached the eighth grade, nearly half have had at least one drink, and more than 20 percent report having been drunk.

Duncan said if you would like to have her make a presentation to your school or community group, you may call her at (928) 468-8055, ext. 3804.

Is My Child Using Meth?

Short Term Use Can Result In:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Nervous physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Burns on lips or frequent nosebleeds
  • Carelessness about appearance
  • Lying or secretiveness
  • Unusually violent
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Problems at school
  • Missing valuables -- users often steal to buy drugs

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