The National Association of Counties reports that methamphetamine is the leading drug-related local law enforcement problem in the country. Local law enforcement agents, like Sheriff John Trumbo of Umatilla County, know all too well the damage meth can inflict on a community.
Radio: Voices from the Front
To get a personal perspective on the meth problem in Oregon, we’ve asked four people who are living and working on the front lines to answer the question:
“If you had the power, what one thing would you change in Oregon to address the meth problem or its consequences here?”
Sheriff, Umatilla County
Voices from the Front Commentaries
- Rita Sullivan — Therapist and director of the nonprofit substance abuse treatment program OnTrack
- Carol Chervenak, M.D. — Medical Director, ABC House
John Trumbo — Sheriff, Umatilla County
- Carla George — Recovering drug addict who has been clean and sober for nine years.
Share your ideas and solutions to the meth problem in Oregon.
Transcript: John Trumbo
Rarely have I served a search warrant on a meth house where there were not children present. Many times there are babies in diapers crawling through trash on dirty floors, inhaling the toxic fumes from the in-house production of meth by their parents. The long-term effects of second-hand exposure to meth fumes and toxic materials are not known, but I believe the future will bring on another epidemic of medical issues for those kids. And those innocent children were not given a choice.
In my 33 years of experience in law enforcement, I have seen the drug of choice change from marijuana, to LSD, heroin and cocaine, to name a few. Currently, methamphetamine is the drug of choice. Numerous studies have proven that marijuana is a gateway drug — one that opens the gate to bigger things in the drug culture. And let us not forget alcohol, probably the most abused drug in history.
I believe the first step in making a dent in the meth epidemic is to create a way to reduce its use and abuse. Simply stated, we, as a responsible society, need to provide adequate treatment programs for meth addicts.
Because of its addictive power and the changes in the thought process caused by meth abuse, most meth users are not mentally or physically able to break the cycle of addiction by themselves. It is up to those of us who are not addicted to meth or any other dangerous drug to provide treatment to those who are.
Treatment is a very time-consuming, expensive process that requires 100 percent cooperation from both the treatment provider and addict. If the addict is not ready to commit to changing his or her life, all the court-ordered treatment in the world will not make treatment successful.
To make meth treatment successful, we must create a desire within the addict to become healthy in mind and body again. After we have secured a commitment, we must have adequate treatment facilities available to address all addicts and their needs. Treatment facilities and professionals are not cheap. But the death and destruction that meth brings to addicts, their families and their communities is not cheap either. The feeling of security we should have in our communities is deteriorating because of the criminal activities that occur at the desperate hands of addicts.
There is an enormous drain on state and local resources to provide shelter, food and medical services to addicts and their families. The Oregon Health Plan and the Oregon Trail Card programs were originally designed to assist our less fortunate neighbors with traditional and customary medical care. Unfortunately, because meth addicts are rarely able to obtain and keep gainful employment, they must depend on one, and usually both of those programs, for the ever-increasing medical needs meth addiction creates. This is costing taxpayers millions of dollars, and those of us with health insurance have seen drastic increases in our insurance premiums because we must pick up the tab for those who are not able to pay their own hospital bills.
Meth abusers are on a merry-go-round with their hands out for our financial support. Our goal as healthy members of society must be to provide adequate treatment programs that will allow addicts to break the cycle of abuse so they can become productive citizens who want a hand up, not a handout.
- Stats on Meth
- Fifty percent of the children in foster care in Oregon are there because of meth.
- Source: Oregon Dept. of Human Services
Meth in Oregon: How and why Oregon has become a key front in the fight against meth.
- More from OPB Radio:
- Governor Signs Anti-Meth Legislation Into Law (8/16/05)
- Oregon to Have Nation's Toughest Anti-Meth Law (8/1/05)
- Oregon Senate Concerned About Federal Combat Meth Act (7/27/05)
- House Votes to Make Pseudoephedrine Prescription-Only (7/20/05)
- Momentum to Ban Hard Tablets Used to Make Meth (6/1/05)
- Oregon Territory: Methamphetamine Epidemic (1/28/05)
- Recovering Addicts on What to Do About Meth (1/25/05)