Troubling Meth Problem
By Alex Saitta
August 2, 2016
This was a letter I sent to the newspaper a couple of weeks ago.
I want to thank all who voted in the June primary and run-off elections. Your participation and support was greatly appreciated.
I met many people during the county council campaign and gained some insight into the problems our county faces. Most are broader and deeper than most realize.
For example, all the county council candidates in all the races supported a new, renovated and/or bigger jail. Talking with patrolmen, a deputy, DSS, the solicitor, an employee at the jail and even a couple of former inmates, I came to realize the problem is beyond just building a new jail. The solicitor said 80% of those in the LEC are there for meth (methamphetamine) ó making it, stealing to get money for it, getting high on it and then committing some other crime. Build a bigger jail, yes, but realize it will fill up in a short time.
There is also a legal aspect to the problem -- not enough prosecutors, court time and public defenders, but that is not the scary part.
Meth is a devastating drug -- poison. Look at some of its ingredients: acetone which is paint thinner; lithium used in batteries; toluene used in brake fluid; anhydrous ammonia used in countertop cleaners. Nor is meth like alcohol or marijuana which takes years to become a habit. A person becomes addicted to meth after using it once or twice. Also the rehab success rate is extremely low, less than 15% for meth addicts, so it is a tough clinical problem too.
Add in most users are on government assistance, so they are sustained in their drug use and crimes ó a maintained class, a class that is growing in the county. So itís a social problem.
Whatís the solution? Pseudoephedrine (PSE) is a key ingredient. Making PSE prescription only like in Oregon and Mississippi could be one step. The drug companies will not like that, but our legislature must seriously consider this.
Since the rehab rate is so low, the cure is most likely to be generational ó doing more to make sure our youth never try the stuff in the first place. Opportunity is the key there. If a kid graduates high school and lands a job here in Pickens; thatís the kind of habit we want him to fall into. Without such job opportunities he could fall into a bad habit, and too many obviously are.
Iím all for building tourism, but that should not be the focus of our economic development. Tourism creates minimum wage jobs. We need gainful employment; jobs generating a living wage and career paths. This is the economic piece of problem/ solution.
I learned we are facing a very broad chanllege here ó law enforcement, legal, clinical, social and economic. It requires a coordinated effort across agencies, that frankly I just donít see right now. It needs to be undertaken, though, because the situation is quietly getting worse.