By Timothy Cox
VAN WERT -- Area mental health and social service officials talked Tuesday about the increasing prevalence of methamphetamine on the local drug scene and its impact on drug treatment and diagnosis.
Area law enforcement officials have busted at least nine methamphetamine labs during the past year or so and meth addicts are starting to show up in local jails.
Those are critical concerns for Tri County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services board members who oversee the local treatment network in Mercer, Van Wert and Paulding counties.
"It's a drug that has become pretty prevalent," Tri County Executive Director Keith Turvy told members attending the regular meeting.
Tri County officials talked about the need to properly diagnose meth addiction so users receive the proper treatment. Often the effects of the synthetic drug made from several hazardous chemicals mimic the symptoms of mental illnesses. Chronic methamphetamine abuse can lead to brain damage. Tri County board members watched excerpts of a video called "Crank: Made in America," which showed real-life effects of abusing the drug. An expert on the film said meth causes the chemical picture of the brain to look exactly like the signature of someone with paranoid schizophrenia.
Meth addicts often stay awake for days, are moody and irritable and suffer hallucinations and delusions. A man in the video who apparently had been awake for days said he only "crashes" after taking meth when he starts seeing "shadow people."
Tri County board member Bud McFarlin, Mercer County's jail administrator, said he has seen meth addicts behind bars at the local jail. A couple have refused to sleep and persistently screamed and caused other problems.
The local area has become attractive to meth makers because of the rural location and the abundance of the chemical anhydrous ammonia that is used in agricultural fertilizer and in meth production. The anhydrous is commonly stolen from area farms and fertilizer distributors.
Turvy said a newspaper reporter with The (Toledo) Blade recently asked him about the meth issue, and suggested local people are only making the stuff, not using it.
"He asked me where they are exporting the drug to. He couldn't believe there was demand in the local area," Turvy said.
Staying on top of the meth issue is critical, Tri County officials were told, especially as crisis calls involving the drug increase.
Studies have shown fewer than 6 percent of meth addicts will eventually get a handle on their addiction, said Tom Stricker, director of Westwood Behavioral Health Center in Van Wert.