DEADLY DRUG IS WIDELY AVAILABLE
Those battling methamphetamine say the popular drug is widely
available, partially because it is more affordable than it used to
The Marshall County Drug Enforcement Unit (MCDEU) agent Phil Simms
said meth use has soared.
"In 1997, I first started working meth here but not like it is now.
Back then, an 'eight-ball' (eighth ounces of meth) cost 300-350
dollars. Today, it costs $125 or sometimes cheaper."
The impact on users and society has been devastating.
Sims has been with the MCDEU for three years. Previously, he has
worked with the District Attorney's office, Sheriff's Department, as a
Guntersville patrol officer, and worked with Guntersville's drug unit.
Today, with the exception of a few crack cocaine, acid or marijuana
cases, "80 percent of our cases are meth related, he said. Every time
we go somewhere-it's either they've used meth or they're using it."
"Very rarely do we go somewhere that the family or that person hasn't
been affected by meth," Simms said.
The first primitive meth-type lab Simms said "Appeared in Arab in June
of 1999...The more familiar meth lab came on the scene in 2000."
Early experiences dealing with the meth labs were hampered by the
"lack of experience local law enforcement had in dealing with them,"
Simms said. "Locals would have to "wait 10-12-hours waiting for a DEA
unit and cleanup crew to arrive on site and another 10-hours cleaning
"The number of labs" he said, "is increasing from "a total of 60 last
year-to 55 already this year."
While a number of the illicit labs are found in cars and hotel
rooms-the vast majority of the illicit labs are in homes."
What is the most dangerous aspect of meth to the community?
According to this veteran investigator, "The problem is most people
don't realize how available it is and what it can do. It makes people
very paranoid and schizophrenic. They hallucinate and see things not
there, making them do things they normally don't do. They become very
violent...committing assaults, rapes and murder."
"We never know what were going to encounter when we go to a house or
make an arrest-we have to be ready."
Reluctantly, he told of several occasions when he and other agents
have come close to using deadly force.
One close call came when he had to react instinctively and immediately
to disarm a suspect, under the influence of meth, who "came at me with
The father of a 14-year old son, Simms is concerned about the pressure
placed upon his son in today's society.
"I constantly talk to him about the dangers of meth. I have taken him
with me so that he could see what is out there. I don't want someone
out there telling him it (meth) is cool. He knows what meth; cocaine
and marijuana can do to you. I feel, if and when the time comes, he
will make the right decision."
"It (children's welfare) is a big concern of ours (agents). The best
thing parents can do is communicate-talk with their children."
"It starts doing brain damage almost from the first time they use it,"
said Dr. Mary F. Holley of Albertville, founder of Mothers Against
Meth-Amphetamine (MAMA) which was started to distribute the literature
she has written to educate the public about methamphetamine and other
"The mission of MAMA is to glorify God by providing competent and
compassionate drug education and rehabilitation resources that reflect
the mercy of Jesus Christ for the addict, his family, and the community."
Dr. Holley doesn't mix words when she states, "This drug kills; some
by overdose; some by suicide and some by drug related violence. This
drug destroys the lives of those who use it. It destroys the lives of
their families, their children, and their parents."
Holley knows the truth first hand of meth's deadly ability to destroy
lives. Her brother was addicted to meth. On the 4th of July 2000, at
age 24, he found a gun at her uncle's house and shot himself in the
Returning to meth's effect on the brain, the wife and mother of a
teenage daughter, said, "There's a little track in your brain that
gives you control over the urges, drives and cravings everybody has.
The first thing meth does is kill those cells. So, you don't have any
control over impulses, your temper, drives or cravings-they control
you, but of course you don't realize that."
Holley said, "Within a week of the first time a kid uses meth-90
percent will use it again. They'll think they chose to use it again,
but in reality they had a desire to use it again and they could not
control that desire."
"They are not ready to admit they are addicted until it starts causing
them problems. It becomes an addiction when something dramatic
happens; they are thrown in jail; they lose their job or when their
Meth's attractiveness according to Holley comes from meth's ability to
provide a "feeling of power...confidence...intelligence...indurance...you
can dance all night and never get tired. It gives you this incredibly
good feeling and they see nothing wrong with that.
In higher doses Holley equates the feeling with that experienced by a
couple at the climax of a sexual experience. It is this experience
that is often used as an enticement to young teenagers, "making it
very difficult for a kid to pass up,"
Over time, as the brain damage gets worse, it starts causing
Holley said, "An addict will experience a generalized feeling of
irritability. Everybody gets on your nerves...the job becomes
boring...people are stupid...music doesn't sound right...food doesn't
taste good...nothing is good until they get another hit. Then
everything is good again."
When a high dose chronic user attempts to get of meth they will,
Holley said, "Go into a profound depression that lasts from 10-14
days. They can't get out of bed and may sleep for three or four days,
waking up on the floor, not knowing where they are or what day it is.
They will be incredibly hungry...irritable...crawling out of their
skin with anxiety. Nothing will make the feelings go away except
Holley visits the jails and attempts to help the female inmates.
She said, "Meth addicts thrown in jail become very difficult to
"Babies exposed to meth are at a high risk for ADHD, learning
disabilities, conduct disorders and more likely to become addicted as
adults because of the chemistry changes in the brain. Young children
in homes exposed to the fumes associated with meth manufacture can
expect brain damage results similar to having sniffed glue since the
age of three-resulting in severe personality disorders." Holley said.
An obstetrician-gynecologist, Holley asked, "Who is going to raise
On a more hopeful note Holley said, "With time it heals, but it takes
12-18-months off the drug. The vast majority of it (symptoms) heals;
the anxiety gets better; the depression lifts; they start feeling
better; they can care about their children; they can plan for their
future. While it gets better-it doesn't completely resolve. They'll
never be what they could have been, but they can function as a real
person; in a family and in society, but it takes time!"
As a Christian, Holley's message to parents and spouses of addicts is,
"Pray for your loved one who is addicted and never give up, because
the Holy Spirit can speak to them when no one else can."