A new meth education presentation program has been made available in the area sponsored by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the District 3 District Attorney's Office, the District 3 Drug Task Force and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
The most recent presentation was given last month at Davidson High School to a very responsive group of 50 young people, grades seven through 12. Sheriff Billy Hanes of Tillman County brought his daughter along from Frederick High School to view this particular presentation.
Trooper Shawn Laughlin of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troop M began the show with an invitation: "Get involved. We want y'alls input."
Laughlin told those gathered that methamphetamine is a stimulant, both highly psychologically and biologically addictive. As stimulants go, it increases heart rate and blood pressure.
Use of the drug has many telltale signs for parents, siblings, friends, strangers and, of course, the police. They aren't pretty. These symptoms include dilated pupils, severe dermatitis, rotting teeth, injection scars, twitching, tremors, paranoia and something termed "crank bugs." This happens when the drug user imagines bugs crawling on his or her skin and they continue to scratch away these imaginary "bugs," leaving sores all over their bodies.
Many of these sores can be hidden from public view by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
Laughlin showed a slide of a man with sores all over his body and then asked the students, "Do you think he wants to get off of meth? He wants to get off meth, I guarantee you he does not want to look like this."
There were many photos that made the reality of this drug really hit home to the kids. Booking photos of an attractive young woman in 1979 who just started out using meth. followed by a series of booking photos showing the effects of the drug. The last photo of the woman was taken in 1989, 10 years after she began using the drug. That photo was her death photo.
"True pictures, young people. This is true stuff I'm telling you here," said Laughlin. He went on to tell the kids, "It is possible to be 20 years old and have a 60 year old heart." The drug use also causes liver disease and kidney failure. He went on to tell them that three kids had lost parents from meth use at some of the schools the presentation has been made, and many had been taken away from their parents at early ages.
"It is not something you can just experiment with and put down, I guarantee you," Laughlin said. Ninety three percent of addicts in traditional treatment return to methamphetamine abuse.
He told students their chances of contracting a disease skyrocket when using any drug. "When you make a decision to use drugs, Hepatitis B will kill you faster than AIDS will. There is no cure and it will eat your liver up."
Laughlin said that there are two reasons why a girl uses meth for the first time. Either she is introduced to it by a boyfriend or she uses the drug to lose weight.
The presentation then turned to audience participation. Laughlin pulled a boy, Josh Cully, out in front for a demonstration with role play. He played "you are under arrest" with Cully. The scenario was Laughlin checked the boys' pockets and pretended to pull a simple table spoon out. A spoon that looks just like a spoon but has a trace amount of meth on it.
Laughlin then placed the boy in hand cuffs and asked Agent Bob Carter of the Altus Police Department Drug Task Force how much of the drug does it take to make an arrest, if the scenario were true.
Carter said, "The law says a quantity with a detectable amount." He would then be charged with possession of a controlled and dangerous substance and be looking at either one year in the county jail with a $1,000 fine or two to 10 years in the state pen.
There was more role playing with students Morgan Day and Manual Vera. The scenario was sharing prescription medications at school. The role play was that Day had a sports injury and was on pain medication. Vera is aware of this and asks her for a Lortab, telling her how pretty she is. Laughlin asked Day, "So what do you say to him?" Day said, "Yes."
The cuffs were slapped on Day, and the reality told by Carter that if this were for real, the charge would be distribution of a controlled and dangerous substance, even though no money was exchanged. The penalty would be two years to life in prison; two to 10 years for just one pill.
Laughlin told them that Lortab, Xanax, Oxycontin and Ritalin are also problems in junior high and high schools.
"How many of y'all know how to cook dope?" asked Carter. He said that he would not teach them how to cook it, but he would tell them what goes into the body, which could be one of the best deterrents. Items such as denatured alcohol, lithium batteries, pseudoephedrine, anhydrous ammonia, ether, drain cleaner (sulfuric acid) and sodium chloride.
Another process of cooking uses red phosphorus, iodine crystals and pseudoephedrine. Carter brought reality home with photos, mostly death shots, of meth cooks in this area who blew themselves up, charred beyond recognition. It all boiled down to the fact that meth will get you one way, or it will get you another, if it is introduced into a persons life.
"The sad part about it is it kills the kids," said Carter. "What happens when we see children in the meth lab? We take 'em. We take those children. They don't go back to mama and daddy." (Unless they are able to get help). He also said that they find dope in dirty diapers, because the parents don't think they will look there... but they do. "The stuff is so toxic that we wear suits so we don't take it home to our families."
Officer Shirlene Meadows of the Altus Police Department shared in the presentation with photo slides and facts about how meth has invaded her own family and all but destroyed the life of her sister.
Laughlin told the students, "I think we've done every school in the five county area, except Altus."
District Three District Attorney John Wampler has made all presentations but one, when duty called him elsewhere. Wampler said to the students, "The drug grabs ahold of you and controls your life."
Parents are glad kids get arrested "probably because what I can do to you is the least of your worries," said Wampler. "The reality of the world we live in, the general public (who elects me) want prison or jail time. We want to give you the information you need to make good decisions."
Wampler finished the presentation with "We really do care about you and we want you to make good decisions. Meth is used in this presentation because of the problem it has become. That doesn't mean to go out and use something else."
When asked what they thought about the presentation, seventh grader Jessica Rushin and eighth grader Julynda Connywerdy were in agreement that the program changed peoples minds before using the drug and that people who did it before probably never will again.
A new law went into effect, due to the killing of Trooper Nik Green. Prior to the signing of the Nic Green pseudoephedrine legislation bill, Oklahoma lead the nation in meth labs per capita.
After April 7, 2004 when the new legislation was signed into law by Governor Brad Henry, the state of Oklahoma saw a 60 to 70 percent reduction in meth lab seizures over the state. After Nic Green, pseudoephedrine can no longer be purchased over the counter and with that, meth is getting harder to produce without leaving the state such as to Texas, to purchase up to $2,000 worth at a time.
For more information regarding the meth education presentation for seventh to 12th grade students, contact the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troop M at 477-2765.