Meth Use And Production Up In Gila County

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Gila County Sheriff's Officer Dennis Buller with the Gila County Meth Coalition said meth production has seen an upswing in Globe in the last couple of months, as well as a rise in drug activity in Globe schools.

Statistics for Gila County, however, indicate that overall use has seen almost a percentage drop in the last couple of years.

Payson, in comparison, has less production of dangerous drugs, but use is up a little, said Payson Police Chief Don Engler recently.

Evidence of both was apparent at the latest Meth Forum by the Gila County Meth Coalition recently in the auditorium at Payson High School.

Attendance of the Meth Forum was dominated by about 35 recovering drug abusers and only about 10 to 15 other residents.

After an hour-long presentation by Buller showing graphic before-and-after photographs of meth users, the floor was opened for a question and answer session.

The majority of the questions came from recovering addicts who wanted to know what kind of services the meth coalition has to offer.

Sgt. Terri Lindon with the Gila County Sheriff's office said services in Gila County are limited because of budget constraints, but that there are a number of free services for people who seek to stop using, such as Narcotics Anonymous.

Jason Hazelo with Payson Police said that he sympathizes with recovering addicts, but that law enforcement is limited in what they can offer in the way of help.

"The state doesn't really have any walk-in, or on the spot services we can offer," he said.

"I know you are all here to help us and I appreciate that, but your words seem hollow to me," said one recovering addict.

Which raises the question if any of the tactics used in abstinence campaigns have had any effect on drug use and production in Gila County.

The graphic images of meth users cowering in corners covered with "speed bumps" and scabs from picking at non-existent bugs under their skin, can only be described as scare tactics, but in this case, perhaps scare tactics are effective.

In 2006, The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission performed a study of 60,401 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders from 15 counties in the state on lifetime and past 30-day use of crystal meth.

According to their statistics, in Gila County in 2002, 6.4 percent of the group admitted to having used meth sometime in their life.

Those numbers rose slightly in 2004 to 7.2, but dropped again in 2006 to only 5.6 percent, and only two percent said they used meth in the last 30 days.

As far as the meth problem in Payson, Engler said there is both good and bad news.

The Roundup originally quoted Engler as saying that when he first came to Payson, there were an average of about 270 arrests for meth production per year.

Since then he has clarified that statement saying the 270 figure refers to arrests for dangerous drug use, not meth production.

However, the number still indicates a decline in meth use since 2000.

In 2000, Payson police made 312 arrests for possession of dangerous drugs and in 2007, they made only 193 arrests for the same offense.

He said that in 2007 police made not a single bust in Payson for meth production, as compared to six in 2002 and 2004, and in 2005, they made only two arrests.

While those figures show a decline in meth use, attendance is higher than ever at his support group, said David Mikulak with Narcotics Anonymous in Payson.

"When I first got here, there were maybe about 10 or 12 people who came to the meetings," said Mikulak. "But now there is almost always around 20 or 25 who attend regularly."

He said he doesn't attribute the higher attendance to higher use, but to the fact that people are getting the message that free support is available to them.

He said from what he has seen and heard, the reason attendance is rising at Narcotics Anonymous meetings and other support groups is because more and more people are seeking help than in years past. He said that while the tactics of using graphic images, such as the ones used by the Gila County Meth Coalition to scare people into not using meth may seem brutal, it appears to be working.

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