Series Wrap-Up: Only Solution To Meth Epidemic Is To Fight It As A Community

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After spending the past three editions of the Payson Roundup exploring the breadth and depth of the meth problem in this area, we cannot deny that our community is in crisis. And it would be naïve for us to offer an easy solution.

Meth is a nationwide epidemic. Meth is a rural drug, affecting small town America. It is destroying economies. It is destroying families. And it is making once safe places, communities where identity theft, burglaries and domestic violence are rampant.

At this point, there is not a member of this community who can say, "This is not my problem."

This is a community problem, Payson Police Commander Don Engler said. "And it's going to take the entire community working together to overcome it."

While we focus our efforts outside of this country, fighting the war against terror, there is a kind of internal terrorism taking place at home, on our streets, and the casualties are adding up.

To date, we have tried everything from restricting the purchase of ingredients used to make the drug -- pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in Sudafed, is regulated and difficult to purchase in large quantities -- to visiting schools and spreading the message of the dangers of this drug.

These efforts must continue, but we cannot rely on the government and law enforcement to stop this epidemic.

As citizens, we must educate ourselves about every aspect of this drug and report it where we see it. Meth users, makers and dealers cannot feel safe in our town.

First, learn to recognize the smell of meth. When meth is being "cooked" it gives off a strong chemical smell. They used to say that it smelled like cat urine, but these days, the drug can be made in so many different ways, that no longer applies.

Call the police if you notice a strong chemical smell coming from any house. They will protect your identity. Also watch for changes in your neighborhood, such as an increase in traffic to one home.

"We can't encourage people to call us enough," Engler said.

The image of a meth user as a lower income, middle-aged, white male is a stereotype, Engler said. "We have arrested people as young as 14, as old as 72. Meth crosses all financial boundaries, crosses all types of career paths and all age groups. It's often difficult to see until they've abused for a while."

Someone on meth may seem agitated, irritable. The might have welts on their arms or face. They may have involuntary tics, shortness of breath and sweating. Once they have been on the drug for a while, their teeth begin to rot.

"They look anorexic," said Darlene Duncan, prevention coordinator and community liaison for Rim Guidance Center. "They age prematurely. They might talk a mile a minute and change topics in the middle of a sentence."

If you suspect someone is on meth, be careful how you approach them, said Darlene Duncan, prevention coordinator and community liaison for Rim Guidance Center. Like the example of the man who was shooting into the street because of the paranoid delusions brought on by meth that we wrote about in "Urban problems, small town," which we published on Dec. 7, you never know what to expect.

When it comes to teaching your children about drugs of any kind, meth included, the best thing to do is present the facts. Scare tactics are temporary and ineffective.

There should be no question that an uncompromising war needs to be waged against this drug, and we must fight it together.

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