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Legislation partly responsible for meth#8217;s decline

One issue that police officers always have to face is drugs.

Whether it is prescription pills, over-the-counter medication, marijuana or methamphetamine, drugs are prevalent everywhere.

One of the biggest changes is the use of harder drugs and one of the hardest drugs that has become popular in recent years is methamphetamine.

So far, Lawrence County hasn’t seen the methamphetamine problem that exists in other parts of the Appalachian region and the country.

Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey said the drug of choice is prescription pills.

“Just about any type of narcotic prescription medication,” he said. “But methamphetamine, I can’t recall us having any problem with that. We haven’t come across it in the city.”

Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton said he thinks the reason it hasn’t hit here is because of their aggressive tactics against drug sellers and there seems to be a preference among drug users for prescription pills.

“You would expect to see meth made here because we are a rural county,” Sexton said. “But our major drug problem is people getting prescription pills.”

He said his department’s concern tends to be more towards “pill mills” where doctors prescribe narcotics with more concern for making money than treating patients.

“Despite being undermanned, we take a very aggressive stance against drugs, whether its pills, crack or methamphetamine,” Sexton said.

While law officials haven’t seen much methamphetamine in Lawrence County, they are trying to prepare if methamphetamine labs suddenly start appearing.

Carey said he is concerned they could.

“It’s all around us,” he said. “There’s the potential there because it is in the surrounding counties. I think eventually it will, but there is no indication of it now.”

In fact, neighboring Scioto County has one of the state’s highest rates for meth lab busts in a rural area. In one year alone, it had 47 meth lab busts.

Popularity

In the 1960s, illegally manufactured methamphetamine was mainly an issue in America’s west with biker gangs being the main sellers of the drug.

By 1999, the drug had spread across the nation and it was becoming a rising concern in Ohio. A state study found the clandestine meth labs had been primarily in the Akron/Youngstown area and were spreading across the state, especially to the southern region.

In 1999, there were 36 reported meth labs. In the first quarter of 2003, there were 174. In 2005, there were more than 400. But in 2006, the number of meth labs started to decrease in part because of state legislation.

Methamphetamine became a popular drug because it is relatively easy to make from store-bought products like cold medicine and liquid fertilizer.

It takes a toll on the human body that makes its hardcore users itch. It is also known to rot teeth and bring about paranoia.

Cleanup

The production of meth creates about six pounds of hazardous waste and costs taxpayers between $2,500 and $10,000 to clean up since a specialized cleaning process is necessary.

There is also a danger to law officers who aren’t aware that they’ve walked into a meth lab. The chemicals can burn skin and cause damage to lungs and skin.

The major chemical ingredient is anhydrous ammonia, which farmers use in their fields as a liquid fertilizer.

In 2004, a state law made the theft of the anhydrous ammonia a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

Impact

It isn’t just officers and users who are affected by methamphetamine. Even a cold sufferer going to the drug store has to deal with the effect.

In 2006, Ohio Sen. John Carey, R-Wellston, introduced Senate Bill 53, which controls the sale of medicines containing one of meth’s primary ingredients — psuedoephedrine, which is a decongestant in cold medicine. The bill was made law in February 2006 and all varieties of medicine with psuedoephedrine are now required to be placed behind a store counter. People can only purchase nine grams within in a one-month period.

Customers must be over 18, show identification and sign the store’s logbook so the state can monitor sales.

Carey said that statistics from the Ohio Attorney General show an overall drop in the number of meth labs statewide from 446 in 2005 to 283 in 2006.

“However, while these statistics are promising and progress is surely being made, meth still poses a tremendous danger to the health of our communities,” Carey said. “Despite drops in the production of meth in Ohio, there are signs that individual abuse of the drug is rising, possibly fueled by gangs and other criminal elements transporting and distributing the drug throughout the state. Therefore, work to eradicate meth must continue.”