|By ANN ALLEN
ROCHESTER, Ind. — It isn’t difficult to build a file about methamphetamine and its dangers. All anyone needs is to read or watch the daily news.
Unfortunately making the illegal drug is almost as easy.
Commonly referred to as meth, the poor man’s cocaine or ice, it has infiltrated every county in every state. By 2004, Indiana ranked fourth in the nation. It’s probably higher now since meth use has literally triggered a new ice age.
Unlike drugs that prevail in larger cities, however, meth devastates lives and families in small, rural communities.
Its ingredients are simple - anhydrous ammonia, drain cleaner, over-the-counter cold medications, sulfuric acid, table salt. ... “If it can make sugar and you can make cookies, you can make meth,” said a Fulton County police officer. “What they (cookers who mostly manufacture the drug for their own use) can’t buy, they steal.”
Police in the southern part of the state tell about finding a man’s foot in a boot next to an anhydrous tank after he’d spilled the caustic chemical in his haste to avoid arrest. Life and limb mean little to addicts who will go to any length to get the materials to manufacture the drug that leaves an euphoric rush of confidence, hyperaltertness and sexiness said to last hours on end.
While most of the people using meth have been on drugs since they were teens, it is not considered a youth drug, although that is changing with 5.5 percent of Indiana’s 12th grade students admitting they’ve tried it at least once. Mothers conceal meth in their babies’ diapers, unaware or not caring that it could badly burn the child or be absorbed into its system.
In Fulton County, where at least 85 percent of the overcrowded jail’s inmates are drug users, Sheriff Roy Calvert said, “It’s scary. I’ve never seen anything come on like meth. I don’t pretend to know how to keep up. I have full-time officers working a drug task force, but the labs pop up faster than we can close them.”
Meth’s popularity, according to users, is that the first high is so powerful.
“You get a high like you’ve never had before,” they report.
Unfortunately, they never get that same high again, no matter how often or how hard they try.
“People come out of jail or treatment programs and go right back to trying for that same high,” Calvert said. “They don’t reach it, but they keep on trying.”
And in trying, they steal materials. Anhydrous ammonia tanks, especially at planting season, are frequent targets. In Kosciusko County, a farmer left what he thought was an empty tank in a shed near the river at the back of his farm. In the morning, he discovered someone had rowed a boat to the site, slashed the tires so that the tank tilted and siphoned off the remnants.
One Kosciusko County fertilizer dealer said, “I’ve been told you could sell a mother tank of anhydrous in St. Louis for a million dollars but you wouldn’t live to get out of town with the money.”
“We need to educate the public about meth and its dangers,” Calvert said. “Families lack structure, juvenile and judicial centers need revamping.”
He offers these tips for preventing anhydrous theft:
•Call the police if you see someone dumping anything that looks like the remains of a meth lab, such as lithium batteries, multiple cold remedies.
•If you find suspicious materials, don’t handle it. If it’s in your house or barn, shut the door, tape it and call someone trained to handle it.
•Keep anhydrous tanks away from the road. “Meth users are lazy,” he said. “They don’t like to walk very far.”
•Tanks should be kept in a lighted area.
•Know your neighbors and their normal activities. “We aren’t involved with our neighbors anymore,” Calvert said. “Watch for strange activity if you see someone who’s not supposed to be in the neighborhood. We caught one group because a neighbor went to work an hour earlier than usual and saw strangers in a field.” It’s also important to be wary of vehicles driving past a farm slowly. Someone could be planning a hit.
•If you see someone with three or more precursors, i.e. ammonia, lithium batteries and drain cleaner, call the police.
Farmers can partner with police in intelligence and evidence by giving police vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers and descriptions of suspicious individuals. Police officers stress the importance of not confronting someone stealing anhydrous. Most thieves are armed with firearms and/or ball bats.
A group of Kosciusko county people, headed by Judy Mugg, applied for and received a $12,000 grant to purchase locks for the county’s 200 anhydrous tanks. Gov. Mitch Daniels and Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman recently helped county officials install the first locks.
Officials at every level of state and local government agree that putting the skids on Indiana’s new ice age is a complex job.
“The meth problem in Indiana is about as bad if not worse than anywhere else in the country,” said John von Arx, the part-time, volunteer chairman of the Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana.
Comparing drug control strategy to homeland security with many government bodies and organizations involved, he said it’s easy for information to get lost.
“That’s not acceptable,” he said. “We have to get a commitment that everybody is going to be very active.”
This farm news was published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Farm World.