Tahlequah Daily Press

August 9, 2013

Education, vigilance weapons against meth


TAHLEQUAH — Methamphetamine continues to be a serious problem in Cherokee County, and the only solutions are vigilant law enforcement, and relentless education.

Just this week, prosecutors charged an area man they say is a “major supplier” of meth in this area (see story at tahlequahdailypress.com). The suspect has been arrested several times and has several addresses, which indicates he moves around. That’s one of the hallmarks of a person who manufacturers or sells drugs.

This case is unusual in terms of quantity, but a common thread runs through all situations like it. The perpetrator doesn’t usually have just meth in his possession; prescription drugs – usually obtained illegally – are often part of the haul. Significant quantities of cash, plus paraphernalia and substances used in the manufacture of drugs, are typically seized by authorities as well.

Regular readers of the Daily Press have noticed that many “meth cooks” seem to be repeat offenders. They may bond out and reoffend before the original cases ever get to trial. Or sometimes, thanks to the efforts of good attorneys, they may appear to get off the hook a few times before anything serious happens.

Everyone knows how plea bargains work, and that’s sometimes how dealers wind up back on the streets. Sometimes folks vouch for them, and they paint themselves as one-time offenders – desperados who wouldn’t have done it if not for the dire circumstances in their lives. And then there are the chronic, habitual offenders with ill intent – those who will continue to put poison on the streets as long as a set of prison bars doesn’t preclude them from doing so.

Meth is not just a harmless recreational drug, like the label many otherwise law-abiding folks would pin on marijuana. Its reputation for destruction is not a byproduct of discredited studies and propaganda films like “Reefer Madness.” The consequences go far beyond the “munchies” and a lackadaisical attitude.

Meth addicts almost always lie and steal, and they often kill. Just ask the family of OHP Trooper Rocky Eales, who was killed during a drug task force raid in 1999. Or ask his partner, John “Buddy” Hamilton, who was seriously wounded but survived the attack.

Meth makes its users paranoid. They develop sores on their skin, which they scratch relentlessly, and they eventually lose many of their teeth. They often become rail-thin and frightening to look at, though in their delusions, they may see themselves as more attractive than before they began using. They cause endless pain to their families and friends, and can’t hold down jobs. They almost always destroy themselves and everything else in their paths.

That’s not an exaggeration. Almost everyone in Cherokee County knows someone who has fallen prey to this abominable drug.

The biggest fear, for most of us, is that our children will be enticed into this trap. That’s why education is so important. Talk to your kids, and point out people who have succumbed to the allure of meth. They’re not difficult to spot. Show them news stories about addicts, so they can see the actual results of this scourge. And be vigilant. Know where your kids are and who they’re with, and watch for telltale signs. If those signs appear, get help – immediately.

When the sale of over-the-counter cold medicine was limited in Oklahoma several years ago, the manufacture of meth dropped off considerably, and many people thought it would be a thing of the past. The law enforcement community knew better. There will always be a new precursor, or a new method - like the “shake-and-bake” labs that consist of a few chemicals and a plastic bottle.

There may be a day when meth is no longer a problem, but it’s not on the near horizon. In the meantime, we must protect ourselves and our loved ones.