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Meth labs in decline, but use persists
Lisa Z

Officers are no longer finding meth labs in Warren County. But that hasn’t slowed meth use, which is as prevalent as ever in this area, our top law enforcement officials say.

“There was a time we were getting three to five meth labs a week,” said Sheriff Tommy Myers. “As far as a full meth lab with all the components, we’ve found almost none over the past year. They’re non-existent. Less people are cooking now because they serve more federal time when they get caught. So they’ve adapted. They figure out another way to do it. Instead of making it, most of our meth comes in from the North Georgia and Atlanta areas, some of it from Mexico.”

District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis agrees, saying the meth labs found 15 years ago have vanished, but certainly not the meth use. A look at the General Sessions docket from Sept. 18 shows five people going before Judge Bill Locke on meth charges.

And just two weeks ago, a suspect was caught on Yankee Street with 3.6 pounds of meth, an enormous quantity valued at $160,000.

“People are getting charged because law enforcement is working hard and because meth is everywhere,” said Zavogiannis. “Everybody needs to understand, particularly our younger folks, if you use meth you’re going to get addicted to it. It doesn’t matter your GPA, or who your mama and daddy is. I take students out to the jail to show them these are regular people, many of them from good homes, and they’re in here because they get hooked on meth.”

Spotting meth use early can be crucial to getting the person off the damaging and addictive drug, according to Narconon, a global drug rehabilitation and education center.

Prolonged meth addiction is usually an obvious thing, Narconon says, while someone who just started to use recreationally might not stand out as flagrantly. Meth has become popular due to the fact it’s cheap and easy to find.

There are several aspects of meth addiction. A big part of the addictive property is found in the process that occurs in the brain when meth is ingested.

Dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain are heavily released when using meth. The extent of dopamine release in particular is around 12 times more than that of other pleasurable activities such as eating food.

In other words, meth use releases 12 times more dopamine than is normal and natural. This is what’s responsible for the intense high.

But this will create a problem once the high wears off, Narconon says.

When the high wears off, the dopamine level isn’t sufficient anymore. It’s depleted, generally, because a lot of it had previously been released when it wasn’t supposed to be.

This creates an imbalance. The person is flooded with negative effects, a low.

Sometimes this low can become permanent or semi-permanent. The brain will only worsen in this regard when using the drug over time.

If you do recognize an addiction or use of meth in someone you are close to, or just feel the need to help, then know it isn’t the end of the world. It’s never too late for this person to turn their life around.

If you are organizing an intervention don’t be nervous or shaky when presenting with them the fact you want to help. Make sure they know that not only can they trust you, but you’re willing to be supportive and help them find a solution to the drug problem engulfing them.

The Hope Center of Warren County, 507-7800, and Generations, 815-3871, are two local organizations that offer drug abuse counseling.

Signs of Meth Abuse

• Obsessive behavior, repeating same task over and over
• Very talkative, babbling
• Rapid, darting eyes with dilated pupils
• Often sweaty
• Tooth decay, aka “meth mouth”
• Skin sores that linger
• Weight loss
• Absence from work or obligations
• Depression
• Unexplained financial problems
• Social isolation
• Loosening skin / bad skin
• Insomnia
• Vomiting
• Trembling and shaking
• Hair loss