Meth must be No. 1 evil for sheriff's candidates

This column is written by way of confession. I attempted to write it before the Carson City sheriff's primary election but during my research process, I became so depressed that I couldn't finish it.

What depressed me to that extent? I was researching methamphetamine addiction among high school kids. I logged on to the Koch Crime Institute site and found e-mail after e-mail from people who were addicted or had been addicted to meth. After reading 20 or so of these letters, I became immobilized by the devastation created by the use of this drug and I couldn't finish the column.

Methamphetamine is commonly called meth, crank, speed, or in another form crystal tea, ice, or glass and without going in to the scientific details, it triggers a huge flood of dopamine (that feel-good chemical) in the body all at one time. The problem is that the body only produces so much dopamine and in essence the drug user is borrowing on future supplies.

Some addicts remain listless the rest of their lives because they have bankrupted their dopamine supply. According to my research the first "hit", causes an enormous flood of pleasure; the user wants that feeling again so they use a second time but without the same intense result. They continue to chase that first high with diminishing results, which is what makes this drug so addictive.

Why is this information timely? This is the time for us to let our candidates for Carson City sheriff know what our law enforcement priorities are. Mine is the eradication of these low-life, scumbag, piece-of-poop meth dealers who prey on our children. (Don't hold back, girl, how do you really feel about it?) OK, so eradication is probably not realistic but methamphetamine producers and dealers must become a higher priority in the allocation of law enforcement resources.

This is not in any way a criticism of the present administration and all of the hard-working deputies in the Carson City Sheriff's Office. They have been working on this problem, as have their state and federal counterparts. However, I am convinced that more can and must be done to stem the tide of this malignancy.

Meth is "cooked" by mixing together chemicals such as nail polish remover, camping fuel, drain cleaner, battery acid, antifreeze and the basis of the drug, over the counter cold and asthma medicine. This makes it cheap to produce and has led to an epidemic of production and usage in rural areas. Carson City and the surrounding areas are not immune. Further, the fact that the drug can be manufactured in a kitchen sink with ordinary household substances and over-the-counter drugs makes it a law enforcement nightmare.

On Sept. 3, the Lyon and Storey county police raided a large methamphetamine laboratory in Mark Twain along the county border. Kudos to Lyon and Storey county police. I want to read more stories like this. I want the meth "cooks" and the dealers to know that we are on them. I want them to feel the pressure. I want them off the streets.

Why do I feel so adamantly about this? I know of at least five girls in one recent Carson High School class who became addicted to meth. Meth is seductive because in addition to making the user feel good (at first, anyway), it causes weight loss. This side effect is particularly attractive to 17- year-old girls who are alarmed that their bodies are beginning to fill out in normal womanly proportions, which is not in keeping with the bone thin, emaciated look they see in fashion magazines.

Don't think, "This couldn't happen in my family." All of these girls came from respectable families, and all of them were involved in church and school activities. They are bright, they are attractive, they got good grades and they had lots of friends until their addiction took over their lives.

The cost of this drug is immeasurable. Of course, there is the cost to the addict, the direct effect that it has on the addict's family, the cost of losing a productive citizen, the cost of crimes committed by addicts to buy the drug, the cost of child abuse committed by addicted parents, the cost of rehabilitation, the cost of educating and treating children born from drug addicted parents, and the cost of incarceration.

I know that we can't prevent all drug addiction. There are some people who are determined to self- destruct and they will find a way. All the drug education and drug enforcement will not stop them. But we can make Carson City an inhospitable place for methamphetamine production and usage.

If you are as concerned about this issue as I am, let our sheriff's candidates know now before the election. Whether you like it or not, methamphetamine addiction affects all of us.

Linda E. Johnson is a wife, mother, attorney and a 28-year resident of Carson City.


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