Losing the battle against Meth

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					                        Losing the battle against Meth

       Methamphetamine is without a doubt the deepest challenge facing Spokane today.

If you don’t live in a gated community you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of

crime in and around Spokane, and its getting worse. Thieves seem to be everywhere.

They might break into your vehicle and steal your CDs, they might steal your mail, they

might even break into your house while you’re away on vacation. In our area, these

crimes are almost inevitably tied to methamphetamine, also known as crank or tweak.

Law enforcement estimates that 90% of theft crimes around Spokane are tied to

methamphetamine. This statistic reveals only a small part of the damage meth causes to

our community.

       Methamphetamine causes an intense euphoria and energy rush followed by

terrible cravings and depression. Users quickly become highly addicted and the effects of

this drug are catastrophic. A recent study surprised researches by showing meth causes a

“forest fire of brain damage.” Another study showed meth addicts lose about one percent

of their brain cells each year—about the same loss as a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

       Methamphetamine stimulates the same reward center in the brain that most other

positive activities in life do. Whether you just fell in love, just bought a new car, or are

playing with a grandson, all of these activities stimulate your dopamine receptors. When

the user finds there is a shorter and easier chemically induced route to this same sense of

fulfillment, they inevitably abandon efforts for natural fulfillment and begin to rely on the

drug for this sense of joy. What’s worse, when the drug wears off, the user’s dopamine

level is depleted and the dopamine receptors may be damaged. This leaves the person

less capable of feeling happiness and fulfillment than when they started. One of the most
distinguishing characteristics of a meth addict is their severe unhappiness (when not

under the influence of the drug). The effects are so strong that addiction to this drug is

almost inevitable after a few uses. If the user gives up the drug the dopamine level

begins to rebuild but it will be days or weeks before the user feels as content as they did

before they started. Since so few encounters with the drug are needed to cause addiction,

more and more Spokane citizens are addicted to this drug every day, and a very high

percentage of these users turn to crime to support their habit.

        Spokane is quickly losing the battle with meth and with crime. In 1999 Spokane

was 103rd in car thefts per capita. In 2001 we were 32nd. In 2002 Spokane County had

the highest crime rate per capita in the state at 39.7 cases per thousand people. Meth is

also frequently tied to a variety of other community problems like prostitution and

identity theft.

        Statistics show the average methamphetamine user is below average education,

less likely to be employed, and slightly more likely to be female. We can all agree that

this drug is devastating our community, but our community seems to have no answer to

this drug other than law enforcement. In this time of terrorism and tax cuts, local law

enforcement is simply overwhelmed by the effects of this drug.

        What we need most is a thorough and aggressive information campaign that

targets the potential user. This is a drug that guarantees misery for anyone who is

anywhere near the drug. No hype or spin is needed to turn people off from this drug.

Anyone who has seen its effects or knows what inevitably happens with this drug is

completely disgusted with it. Meth’s popularity can only be attributed to its being highly
physically addictive and our failure to properly warn our citizens and our children of the

misery it will cause them.

        We must act now. Every child that is raised in a meth-infested home is highly

vulnerable to addiction themselves and to later raising children in the same environment.

Entire families may turn to fulltime crime to support their habit. Our entire community

pays a tremendous price for this drug--higher insurance rates, toxins left behind in homes

that we rent or buy, children who are developmentally disabled, and police and medical

services that are spread too thin. The list goes on and on and on. We need to

aggressively attack this problem on all fronts, and an aggressive information campaign is

absolutely critical to this effort.

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