Methamphetamine Destroying Lives, Costing All Taxpayers More - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/9/06-East Texas

Methamphetamine Destroying Lives, Costing All Taxpayers More

A growing drug problem in East Texas is now exploding. That's what experts say about Methamphetamine. It's the hard drug of choice in small towns, in the country, and it's so addictive, that users say they're hooked from the first time. And it destroys who they are from the inside out.

"In states of intoxication, they can literally become psychotic," says Dr. John Pogue of ETMC's Behavioral Health Center.

The drug is not always made in a foreign land, and not trafficked through big cities.  It often starts in someone's home.

"You use it one time, and you're hooked," says Upshur County Sheriff Anthony Betterton.

Meth instantly changes the body -- and the person -- inside and out. The before and after pictures are shocking, as life ceases to be normal. 

"I've never thought of myself as a selfish person, but in reality, Iwas one of the most selfish people in the world," says a recovering Meth user we'll call "Bradley".  He's 18.

"I did it for my first time when I was 15 and it blew my mind. I was up for three days, and I couldn't eat and couldn't sleep. I didn't know why," he says.

The intense energy with no appetite leads to dramatic weight loss.  As seen in these photographs from a website called "Faces of Meth."

Bradley thought he could use it just once. But even as we conducted this interview, he was coming off his latest relapse.

"I've been shaky for the past few days because I did so much stuff on top of it, and I just don't want to go back there. I don't want to have to admit to people that I did it again. It's just a crappy experience," he adds. 

"Bradley" is trying to get a fresh start by getting a new job.  It's his 23rd job in three years.

"You don't think about what you're affecting or who you're affecting."

The rise of Meth contrasts from the rise of cocaine in the 1980s in that Meth is a largely rural problem. It's very easy to make, but there are also few treatment options in a small town or out in the country.  That ends up costing all of us more.

"It's becoming a tremendous problem in emergency rooms," says Dr. Pogue.

He says most Meth users can't pay for treatment, so taxpayers foot the bill when Meth users don't get help.

"They end up in emergency rooms and acute psychiatric facilities like this one when what they need is long-term residential treatment," Pogue said.

"What we're doing now is trying to patch people up and send them out, and they're not succeeding in their treatment."

Upshur County Sheriff Anthony Betterton says it costs every taxpayer more.

"You can't put a dollar amount of it, but every place you turn around, you're being affected somewhere financially."

Betterton says lives, families, and businesses are destroyed as meth is everywhere.

"These are good people, these are hard working people who have lost everything because they use drugs one time and they were automatically hooked,"  he says.

Users often don't stop until they're arrested. Their meth labs are found to be toxic waste dumps. The person is not much better, just a shell of who they used to be. And so many are just kids, and that's where education's got to start.

"I'm talking elementary age [where treatment should begin], not junior high -- educating these children and looking at it," Betterton adds.

Bradley says he'll keep trying to stop.  But it's not just about walking away. It's going to be a change of lifestyle.

"You've got to give up your old friends, your old associations, and that's hard to do," he says.

Meth can be swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected, and the tell-tale sign someone's on it is intense energy and euphoria.

A government survey shows nearly seven percent of high school seniors nationwide say they've tried Meth at some point.  There aren't hard numbers for East Texas.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.


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