The methamphetamine epidemic in East Texas continues to grow and officials say it affects our whole community. According to the drug enforcement administration, 20 percent of Texans are addicted to drugs and 70 percent of them use meth. This morning, Smith County held a Meth Summit to educate people on the meth crisis. People who attended learned everything from what meth is, to it's impact on crime and just who is affected by it. A member of the Smith County Sheriffs Department who did not want to be named, said that meth use is so bad in Smith County they cannot even keep up with it.
"A lot of the persons that are in jail, not only in Smith County, but the surrounding counties is because of drug use because it has become such an epidemic here," said the Smith County Sheriff's Department. Meth is not only a highly addictive drug, but also a violent drug.
"When you come off meth you become very violent, you're very paranoid, so you're very violent to your own kids, to your spouse, to people you're around, you're very violent to law enforcement," said Matt Bingham, Smith County District Attorney. You may not use meth, and you may not make it, but through taxes you pay for it. Per household, taxpayers pay about $19.99 for rehabilitation centers for meth users. More than $300.00 goes to lost property for houses and land damaged in the production of meth. Then you pay more than $50.00 for foster care for children of meth users. Cleanup of meth costs about $4.00 per household. Then there's health care costs, which is about $20.00. All together, you pay almost $400.00 in taxes every year.
"You guys need to understand this is a huge problem, this is a very serious problem and this is something that everyone needs to be aware of," said Joe Downing, a DEA Agent. The Smith County Sheriff's department says residents to be on the lookout for meth labs. If you smell anything unusual or see a lot of traffic in your area, call law enforcement so they can begin investigating.