No one is safe from meth use

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Kendra Furlong and her father, Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong, pose together Monday afternoon.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Kendra Furlong and her father, Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong, pose together Monday afternoon.

Sheriff Kenny Furlong's interest in curbing the use and distribution of methamphetamine in Carson City is not just professional. As a father, he had to watch his daughter struggle with addiction, even going so far as to have her arrested and refusing to bail her out of jail.

"It appeared to me our lives were just destroyed," he said. "I knew there was nothing I could do or say that would have helped her. But the arrest was the beginning of the end of her drug use. I knew we had to get her clean so she could stop herself."

Now, nearly two years later, a sober Kendra Furlong, 25, will tell you she is grateful for her

father's tough love. But she'll also tell it didn't matter what her parents thought or wanted, the dope had a grip on her and she sacrificed every relationship and every thing she had chasing the high.

"I was smoking it, eating it, snorting it. I quit my job with the state, my home was being foreclosed on, my mother took my kids - and instead of asking anyone for help, I closed everyone out except the people feeding my habit. I was embarrassed of my behavior but at the same time I couldn't stop. I kept telling myself, 'Tonight will be my last night, I won't do it after tonight,' but I kept doing it."

The proverbial rock bottom came after Kendra's arrest and incarceration in her father's jail. It came after her first visit to a Reno rehabilitation center, after she moved back in with her parents and began trying to care for her children. Rock bottom came when she found a boyfriend in Drug Court that was still using.

"I walked out on my parents' home and chose drugs over them again. I remember sitting in a motel room with a guy who was just being mean, abusive, and I was sitting on a bed cutting my wrists. At that point I knew I didn't want to go home and I knew I didn't want to continue doing what I was doing."

During her next court hearing, Kendra was arrested for drug use.

"I'd come to the end. I remember that spot on the bed feeling completely overwhelmed because I had nothing, sitting in the jail cell looking at my dad. I didn't want to be in my life anymore. I didn't want to be alive."

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.4 million Americans age 12 and older have tried methamphetamine at least once in their lifetimes with the majority of past-year users between 18 and 34 years of age.

It is the most frequently encountered drug in Nevada, and although meth use is working its way across the United States, its easily been the drug of choice in Carson City for at least 20 years.

A person's social standing has no bearing on the addictive nature of meth.

"It doesn't care about your status in life, it doesn't care about anything. It's everywhere and it doesn't miss anyone," said Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville. "This stuff is pervasive. The pressure to use is incredible."

Hettrick's knowledge is personal as well. His daughter has struggled with addiction for years.

Tiffany Hettrick, 29, was arrested on trafficking charges Feb. 18.

On house arrest at her parent's Minden home while she awaits a hearing in this latest case, Tiffany realizes with a mind not clouded by drugs she's better off than she could have ever been otherwise.

But for a long time she was otherwise.

"I started doing drugs in the eighth grade," she said. "It started out recreational and it progressed. I'd smoke a bowl to get up and a bowl to go to bed."

She always worked, though - until she was arrested twice for methamphetamine.

"Two years ago when I got into trouble, I went to rehab and was on probation. I was working the program until I got back down here in the valley, then I just ended up using again. It's worse every time you relapse."

Worldwide it is estimated there are more than 35 million regular users of methamphetamine, as compared to approximately 15 million heroin users and 10 million cocaine users.

Of the weekend population at the Carson City Jail an estimated 24 percent of the people in custody were arrested on drug- or alcohol-related charges.

Carson City deputies made 167 arrests in 2004 where the primary charge is drugs. Sheriff Furlong said one in four arrests is directly associated to drugs or alcohol, but if a deputy responds to a domestic battery and ultimately arrests someone on that charge, the discovery of drugs on that suspect is secondary to the battery. In 2004, deputies arrested a total of 2,628 adults and 543 juveniles.

As meth use skyrockets and arrests increase, city leaders hope to tackle the epidemic with a public campaign beginning Wednesday with an invitation-only workshop.

Furlong knows there are no solid answers, but whatever is being done now isn't enough.

"The approaches we've been using obviously aren't working," he said. "I want to be part of a bigger program. I want to be part of a coalition. How can we band together? The issue is no single entity, no single department, no single person has the ability to combat drugs. That's what we hope to figure out in these workshops - what can we do?"

"Hitting the schools is the most important thing to do because what you need is to get to the people that don't know anything about (meth)," Kendra said. For her own recovery, she finds the retelling of her story empowering. "I want to volunteer, share my story with people that haven't gotten (to the bottom) yet."

Kendra's children are with her now and she's back to work. Things are looking brighter every day.

"I've learned coping skills. I've learned how to walk away from a life I don't want to have anything to do with. I'm going back to school. The best place for me is back with my family. There's a lot of reconciling that needed to be done and we're doing it."

For Tiffany, whose arrest and sobriety is so recent, it's a new struggle. She seems dedicated to her recovery, which she's working on through her church group and 12-step programs.

"I go to keep myself healthy and get myself healthy. I have changed my playground and playmates. I was miserable. By the time I got in trouble, I hated life. Now things are better. Yes, start educating the kids, but I think people also need to know what kind of recovery is out there.

"When I came back from rehab two years ago, I didn't know where to go. That's what people need, to know there are places where the doors are open and they're not going to judge you for who you are or what you've done - let people know where there are safe places for help."

n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.

What it does

What are some consequences of methamphetamine and amphetamine use?

• Effects of usage include addiction, psychotic behavior and brain damage.

• Withdrawal symptoms include depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression and intense cravings.

• Chronic use can cause violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions and paranoia.

• Damage to the brain cause by meth usage is similar to Alzheimer's disease, stroke and epilepsy.

SOURCE: Federal Drug Enforcement Agency

Meth in Nevada

• Meth is the most frequently encountered drug in Nevada and remains available in both personal use and distribution quantities.

• Nevada is both a point of importation and a transshipment location for methamphetamine. The manufacture of methamphetamine in Nevada occurs on a limited basis.

• The meth imported into the state is produced primarily in "super labs" producing 10 pounds or more in a 24-hour period by trafficking organizations operating in Mexico and California.

• Meth is brought to Nevada primarily by ground transportation.

Organized Mexican poly-drug trafficking groups monopolize the large-scale meth trade in Nevada.

• Distributor levels of imported methamphetamine average in pound quantities or greater. Mexican-produced crystal methamphetamine is the most readily available in Nevada and ranges in purity levels from 90 percent to 99 percent. Local meth manufacturing entrepreneurs continue to manufacture meth in small quantities, usually under 1 ounce per cook.

• Laboratories seized recently utilized the pseudoephedrine, red phosphorus and iodine method to manufacture methamphetamine. Locally produced meth often contains a higher purity level that frequently averages 90 percent.

SOURCE: Federal Drug Enforcement Agency


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