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Methamphetamine quickly destroys lives
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part look at methamphetamine in Tulare County. Part one ran on Saturday.
A recovered methamphetamine addict and current anti-drug counselor simply describes the drug that destroys hundreds of lives locally every year this way: “It is all consuming.”
Larry Ray was held captive by methamphetamine for 14 years. Thanks to Judge Glade Roper’s Drug Court, he has been clean and helping others since 2001.
“It takes over your basic needs. It becomes more important than your health, your family, even individual needs,” said Ray.
In his more than 15 years of holding drug court, Roper has seen hundreds of destroyed lives, and many today who are clean and sober. But, he knows for every one of those saved, scores more continue to remain captive to a drug that eventually kills.
“It becomes a matter of survival. A person believes they need it to survive,” said Ray.
A 2008 Kern County study, basically a mirror of what could be found in Tulare County, found approximately one-third of emergency room patients at Kern Medical Center had used meth and well over 50 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions in Kern County were for methamphetamine-related disorders.
Roper said if you take out alcohol, he believes that the number would be higher than 50 percent here in Tulare County.
“I had a young man. His mind was completely blown. He didn’t even know which way was up,” said Roper. “Three weeks later, he was perfectly normal,” he added.
He added that over a 12-year period of time, meth was the fastest growing drug causing substance abuse for 45 to 50 year olds. He said it has no boundaries. Men and women, people of all ages and races, are subjective to the crippling effects of methamphetamine.
John Donnelly, Fresno agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said cocaine, which is not nearly as damaging, was popular in the 1980s, but was replaced with the less expensive and more damaging methamphetamine in the late 1980s. That was after 500 pounds of cocaine was discovered in a storage facility in Porterville in 1988.
Ray said it only took using meth about three times to become addicted. During his 14 years of addiction, he lived on the streets of Visalia for eight years. “I had no desire to go home or take care of my family. I had only one job — to seek out and do more meth.”
He said he didn’t need a home and thought, “My need was to wait for somebody to come find my body.”
Ray said his story is shared by thousands of others, except he was lucky and was able to go through detox. He said many cannot survive getting off the drug and go back to the streets.
He was arrested for the last time by Visalia police on Sept. 24, 2001. He then met Roper and completed the drug court plan “in the shortest amount of time possible — 18 months.”
He said the fear of going to prison was enough incentive for him to get his life in order.
However, meth had taken its toll. “I had the worse case of meth mouth I ever seen,” he said of what the drug did to his teeth.
Meth destroys teeth, and Roper pointed out it also causes what are called “meth bugs,” a sensation meth addicts get that bugs are crawling all over or even under their skin. Scratch marks are a telltale sign of a meth addiction.
“It’s horrendous what physical and psychological damage it can do,” said Ray.
In addition, chronic abusers exhibit symptoms that can include anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances and violent behavior.
Rick Elkins is editor of the Porterville Recorder. He can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1040, or by email at email@example.com.
How is methamphetamine abused?
Methamphetamine comes in many forms and can be smoked, snorted, injected or orally ingested. The preferred method of methamphetamine abuse varies by geographical region and has changed over time. Smoking methamphetamine, which leads to very fast uptake of the drug in the brain, has become more common in recent years, amplifying methamphetamine’s addiction potential and adverse health consequences.
The drug also alters mood in different ways, depending on how it is taken. Immediately after smoking the drug or injecting it intravenously, the user experiences an intense rush or “flash” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Snorting or oral ingestion produces euphoria - a high but not an intense rush. Snorting produces effects within three to five minutes, and oral ingestion produces effects within 15 to 20 minutes.
National Institute on Drug Abuse