Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive, most abused and most readily available drugs in America. Experts are calling it an epidemic, and Minnesota is anything but sheltered from it. Mainstreet Radio has compiled a series of stories on meth and the effect it is having on the state for the first half of this two-hour special report.
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(00:00:00) Minnesota public radio's Main Street radio coverage is supported by blandin Foundation based in Grand Rapids dedicated to strengthening rural Minnesota communities through its leadership development programs grants and public policy initiatives. Good morning, and welcome to this to our Main Street radio special on methamphetamine. I'm Rachel riebe were broadcasting live today from the Minnesota Public Radio Studios at st. John's University in Collegeville. Officials. Say meth is now the drug of choice in rural Minnesota. It's also one of the most dangerous drugs highly addictive and readily available at noon. You'll get a chance to talk to methamphetamine experts. Our phone lines will be open for your questions and comments. But first we're going to hear a special seven-part report on meth in Minnesota will look at how the methamphetamine epidemic in rural Minnesota is affecting law enforcement Social Services the environment and our young people. We begin with law enforcement cops are trained to deal with drugs and drug users. But methamphetamine presents new challenges meth users are often aggressive and can even turn violent the Stick chemicals used to concoct methamphetamine can be a health hazard from the manufacturers and for law enforcement in the first story of our seven part series, Main Street radios. Tim post tells us how meth has changed the job of Minnesota (00:01:29) cops. It's a Saturday night in Minnesota state patrol Trooper Rich home at is looking for a reckless driver. He finds him this time. It's a familiar traffic stop for Holmen. The drug of choice is alcohol. I'm going to go and talk to one of those either one of those and see how much they had to drink also and if they've had the same amount of you, none of you three, you're going to be driving that vehicle dealing with drunken drivers speeding drivers or even people who don't buckle up. It's a big part of homans job, but he's always digging deeper Trooper home and knows almost any traffic stop could turn into a search for drugs in recent years home and has seen more and more drugs here in rural Minnesota and most often what he finds is meth. It's all over out here methods meth is now probably the drug of choice. It's so easily. available they're popping up these. meth labs all over there the portable you can pop up real quick cook up some mass and and they're gone and in no time officials estimate 20% of the math here is made in Minnesota. Most of that is made in rural locations where there are fewer nosy neighbors who might smell the solvents and chemicals involved the recipes for meth very but they all start with over-the-counter cold medicine. The pills are crushed mixed with various kinds of acids or solvents and filtered down to make math. The process is called cooking for Trooper home in the increase in math means more than just extra work meth makes his job more dangerous meth affects people differently than other drugs cops. A meth just makes people crazy Holman says he can tell when someone has been using meth they're on edge. They look like they haven't slept for days often. They have scratches on their face and arms the drug affects the nervous system. So some meth users think they've got bugs under their skin. They scratch themselves until they're covered with open source, if Holman suspect someone is on meth. He uses a calm voice and makes no quick movements. He Is it's tough to know what will send a meth user off one method very paranoid. I think everybody's watching them or everybody's after them. It's you have to be careful with those people because you don't know what they're going to do a special. It's someone that's been on a meth binge for four or five days without any sleep to be dangerous situation. It's a situation some Minnesota cops have faced Sergeant Todd. Hoffman is one of them Hoffman Works in Wright County with the drug task force three years ago. He and another drunk officer. We're investigating a meth case in Eden Valley. The man was making some suspicious purchases like solvents in large amounts of cold medicine local officials thought he might be cooking meth Hoffman went to question the man the man ran into his house the officers followed him. But by the time they got to the kitchen the suspect had grabbed a loaded 357 Magnum. He grabbed at the gun and turn to shoot but luckily somehow I got my hand around the Hammer of the gun and we fell to the floor. He was trying to squeeze back to trigger, but I wouldn't go back because it was my hand was covering it Hoffman his partner in the suspect wrestled on the floor. Hoffman was losing his grip on the gun. It was pointed directly at his chest. He did the only thing he could to end the tussle so bit through his elbow and he let go of the gun and cuffed him up and we got the search warrant for the house and sure enough. There was a Act of methamphetamine lab in a hidden room in the basement. And that's what he was trying to protect. Once an arrest is made there's a new problem a meth cook creates a cloud of chemicals that can cause serious health problems in 1999. Hoffman was called to a right County Lake Anglers could smell a strong chemical odor coming from a fish house and suspected a meth cook when Hoffman arrived at the fish house. He found a thermos bottle on the frozen lake the bottle was full of anhydrous ammonia, one of the critical compounds for making meth when Hoffman picked up the bottle. It released a cloud of gas. when that fumes hit my face my skin immediately began to burn my throat closed I wasn't able to breathe for 510 seconds and then Put my hands in my face. I was wearing gloves and as I pulled my hands away from my face. My gloves are covered with liquid. Basically. I thought my face was dissolving turns out that it was anhydrous ammonia and when anhydrous ammonia touches your skin basically it draws out the moisture. Basically your whole skin. All your mucus membranes are starting to flush. He was rushed to the emergency room. He wasn't badly injured but he's not sure how or if that exposure will affect him later in life. The incident Todd Hoffman a lesson don't handle any of the chemicals that you find or glassware or items from the meth lab if you're not trained in it and if you're not certified by OSHA and dismantling them stay away from them because it's you're going to get injured that's a message the drug enforcement agency in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal apprehension are trying to get across to the DEA and the BCA joined up recently in st. Paul to teach police officers from across the state the dangers of meth lab In this group of about a dozen people are dressed from head to toe in white chemical suits fitted with an oxygen tank. They're headed into the pitch-black basement of a concrete house used to train firefighters. You guys are gonna go first what we're going to have you guys do is go through the obstacle course first. That way we can swap out your bottles and getting charged up everybody ready. All right come with me the exercise prepares officers for the kind of conditions. They might find in a meth lab. They're loaded down with safety equipment and they're worn. This is the only safe way to enter a meth lab. The DEA is John Connor says for too long police officers have been sent in the meth labs without the proper training. We're finding more more frequently than not that was as we go out to awareness training and different levels of training we're seeing people with that aha feeling have seen this before. I remember a couple of years ago. I saw something that looked like that they were in a meth lab and didn't even know it Condors says they teach police to watch for the ingredients and equipment needed to make meth alarm should Offer an officer if they see excessive amounts of chemicals like brake cleaner or drain cleaner phosphorus from matches alkaline batteries coffee filters and empty natural gas tanks since information Deputy Tom Myers with the Pine County Sheriff's Department wishes. He had long ago I can think of one time I walked in and there was quite a few lie bottles on the counter and I didn't think nothing of it, you know, they're cleaning their dreams or whatever. Nobody's going to go through that much the red devil lie, unless they're cooking, you know, so I place myself in Jeopardy there. I didn't know teaching cops to spot signs of meth is simple compared to the other goal of this training the BCAAs. Paul Stevens says in the case of meth labs police and other First Responders need to ignore one of their deepest instincts. We have too many officers across the country are getting very very sick from going into too many meth labs and not taking the appropriate safety measures because fire firemen and policemen and First Responders have always in the past rushed in to do the right thing, but this One of those times that we have to rethink our actions or they can be very serious consequences for themselves and their families law enforcement officials say that's a hard line to take but a necessary one in the battle against meth. They say if there's any hope of finding the drug, Minnesota police officers can't become victims of meth themselves Tim post, Minnesota Public (00:09:20) Radio. I'm Rachel rebe and you're listening to a special Main Street report on meth in Minnesota. Methamphetamine is one of the most highly addictive drugs to come along in years experts say meth quickly turns casual users into attics Main Street radios Tom Robertson reports how math is devastated and Northern Minnesota family. It's the story of a woman named Rebecca who's making her fourth attempt to stay sober and reclaim her life (00:09:48) Roberta lives in a white 1930s era rental house on a tree-lined boulevards in Park Rapids inside. What was once a large living room is now jam packed with stuff mounds of second hand clothing used furniture knickknacks. Rebecca calls it the free store. She lets people come in day or night to take what they want. No charge. The free store is something of a Penance for Rebecca helping people, you know, kind of gets my focus off of me and my portal (00:10:18) self, but sometimes it gets to be a real mess. (00:10:22) Now the mass could be a metaphor for Rebecca's life. She's 36 and has faced a number of drug related charges. She's been in and out of treatment for 12 years Rebecca's been addicted to math the drug rotted away half her teeth. She has five kids all with different fathers and because of math through betta lost custody of all of them. (00:10:44) It was Dick to a lifestyle that that included using buying selling (00:10:50) drugs. Okay. The kids are on we hide in the back room or whatever and go use and I come out and try to be a mom Rebecca started using meth socially with her husband in the early 90s when they divorced a few years later. She began dating a man who cooked his own math. That's when her habit turned to Obsession. She used math during most of her pregnancies. She couldn't stop even after authorities busted the meth lab in (00:11:13) 1996 and when I was high like coming off on a two or three-day high and I hadn't gotten his sleep and I also know Out the sun's reality that kick in and go down. You got to quit using. Okay. (00:11:25) I'm gonna you know, and I was going to come down and I'd be my last time and then I sleep and I'd get up and just feel (00:11:33) this overwhelming depression that I can't make my breakfast. I can tie my shoes. I can't get in the showers. All I want to do is hide or sleep and it was so depressed coming off that stuff. The only thing make you feel (00:11:45) better. It's more dope. Fortunately. None of the kids had any obvious health problems from their mothers drug use (00:11:52) a crystal. I'm at this one. Thanks for the pep test. You know Jennifer she took pictures of me and Carly like really yeah. (00:12:05) Krista is in second grade. Her dad has legal custody of her but lately she's been spending more time with Rebecca. Krista's seen her mom at her worst. She's now one of Rebecca's biggest (00:12:16) cheerleaders the she's the been clean now and not doing drugs anymore or not being like confused or forgetting about the time forgetting about us, (00:12:26) but not all of Rebecca's family members are as confident in her latest attempt at sobriety. Dina is Rebecca's mother. She lives in rural Park Rapids, Dina flips through a photo album filled with pictures of her grandkids. He helped raise some of the kids because of Rebecca's meth (00:12:43) addiction. There's Megan. There's Henry Jacob. This is Leah. (00:12:48) It's hard for Dina to forgive Ruby betta she says her grandkids have suffered the most Dina says In a way, it feels like she's lost her daughter (00:12:57) when she's using math. She's a complete different person. She gets angry at people physically abusive towards people. It's like she's lost lost some of those brain cells that gave her Sensitivity. I think math has taken something away permanently. (00:13:12) Deena's relationship with Roberta has been strained for years (00:13:16) for one thing. There's the trust I have lost a lot of faith and trust in Rebecca because this is the fourth time now that she supposedly has been clean. She's not as clean as she says she is (00:13:29) just a mile down the road lives another woman who helped raise her bed as children Charlotte was her mother-in-law. She's grandmother to Henry or bet his only son for five years Charlotte has had custody of Henry and Leah Rebecca's oldest daughter. She keeps a file of the custody case letters court documents social worker reports. They show a pattern of Rebecca's neglect and broken promises for about in birthday. So are times when she failed to show up for dance recitals or hockey games? (00:13:58) There is no turning back the clock. There is no forgiving totally there's no forgetting. I don't care the hurt cannot be undone. I mean I try as much as I can because of the kids but I have to say really deep down. I hate her. There is no question. I hate (00:14:17) her 14 year-old Leah is thin dark haired and fair-skinned. She seems a typical teenager, but she remembers a life. That was far from typical Leah remembers her mom staying awake for days at a time then crashing into several days of Deep Sleep the kids had to fend for themselves, (00:14:35) you know, she's our mom and everything but it seems like since she was off in her jug world and stuff. She never really had time to actually be a mom. She is more like I don't know. I kind of like the big sister. Sometimes I actually felt like the mom because I was it seemed like I was taking care of my sister's more than she (00:14:52) was children. Being neglected or abandoned more and more because of math in a two-year period 61 meth labs were busted in Hubbard County. But authorities say for every lab they find there are probably ten more out there that this put pressure on Hubbard County Jail to at times more than a third of the inmates. Are there on meth related charges. One of the prisoners is Rebecca's ex-boyfriend. His name is Bob. Bob has 40 but looks much older. He's got only nine teeth left the rest were eaten Away by math eight years ago meth grabbed hold of him and never let go when you first try it, you know, it's fun. It's exciting. It's exhilarating, you know, the stuff neat. It's also luring and cunning and sneaky and hateful and unforgiving and Relentless. It's a liar once you do math. It is in control of you. You never control it. It'll ruin your life. Bob is the Father of Rebecca's two-year-old daughter Meghan, he's raised Megan since she was seven weeks old in February last year Bob's house burned down from a meth related fire. Bob says his brother ran a meth lab in a back bedroom right next door to Megan's room, Bob and Megan barely Escape The Blaze this month. He pleaded guilty to a meth related charge. I'm on my way to jail for seven years. I want to be away from my little girl. And that hurts. Yeah all y'all I wanted to you know have this kid. All I want to do is be a good dad. Like so many addicts before her Rebecca has found Religion. She runs Narcotics Anonymous meetings in this church. Rebecca says, she'd be dead without God. (00:16:40) So I've come up here like all times day and night. I've just laid right on the altar before just a job. Just tell me what to do because I'm lost you know, (00:16:51) Rebecca was once a hardcore Rock and roller now. She's taken to writing Christian songs on the church's baby grand. Rebecca says, she's been clean more or less for about a year. She still fights the Drug's effects. Now Rebecca wants custody of at least some of her children, but she'll face a fight summon her family safe for the kids. That's the worst thing that could happen. I'm Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio, Bemidji. (00:17:24) At noon you'll have a chance to ask your questions about methamphetamine will have a panel of experts on hand as well as a recovering meth addict. But first we're continuing our special seven part series on meth and Minnesota. There are children in Minnesota whose parents are Methamphetamine addicts experts say about a third of the adults. They arrest have small children in one Minnesota county. There's a baby born addicted to meth every week. The people who take care of these unintended victims feel overwhelmed, but there isn't enough data yet to attract the attention of policymakers Main Street radios Cara hetland reports if math is a snapshot there are lots of angles the wide-angle view shows how little we really know about the drug and the problem zoom in and you see a system trying to keep up the close-up shows us faces of the children in the people charged with their care that last image is what this story Is really about but we won't start there. We'll start with Tammy Swanson. She may have the best sense of the problem. Well, I think that one of the things that really kind of stood out is just that we're really just beginning to track this and we don't and there's just a lot more that we don't know than we do Swenson is the data coordinator in the University of Minnesota center for advanced studies in child welfare. Overall foster care placement is declining in Minnesota. However, officials have seen an increase in children who need foster care because their parents abuse chemicals. In fact, the increase is 82% over a three year period we know that displacements due to parent chemical abuse reasons, but we don't know if that's marijuana or cocaine or heroin or anything like that Swenson says in counties that have seen an increase in meth arrest. There was also an increase in foster care placement children whose parents use or make math are often neglected many are thin and hungry. Three they can have toxic chemical residue on their skin in toys many have respiratory problems. All suffer emotional problems. Barbara Knox is a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She says it's too soon to know the long-term effects. These children will suffer knock says most of the research focuses on babies born addicted to meth. It's a repeat of 20 years ago when the focus was on babies born addicted to crack and like then now doctors and researchers have more questions than answers knock says some things are clear. She says if a woman does math early in her pregnancy, there's a greater chance the baby will experience brain damage or even pre-birth Strokes these children were starting to have neurologic damage and some damage to their organs as well as to the respiratory system. Knox says most doctors don't know what to look for in newborns. For instance. If an infant's first stool sample is taken Tested doctors know what the mother ingested for the last six months. But if that first sample is missed test can only verify what the mother took in in the last 48 hours. Now our picture of meth shifts we see a system trying to keep up hospitals in one Minnesota county serve as a model Anoka County has a baby a week born addicted to meth in one month. There were as many as 11 babies born with meth in their system. Jackie Humphrey is a social worker. It happens left and right and we have a lot of pregnant using women that were following that may or may not test positive at Birth and then we always get some that we've never heard of that. We don't hear of until the baby is born the baby is taken away from the mother. She isn't charged with a crime but in order to get her baby back, the mother has to get treatment improved to the court. She can stay sober. If not, her parental rights are terminated and the baby is placed for adoption in Anoka County. There's a foster mom who knows more about math than she ever thought. She would Terry Rohani has had about 70 foster kids in the last 14 years. She doesn't Want to talk about her kids in front of them. So we meet at a downtown office building. Ronnie is known as the meth expert in Anoka County for years. She has rocked baby's going through meth withdrawn their really fussy when you first get them they cry a real high pitch scream and they just like get kind of a win see look on their face when they're hurting and they're hard to calm. She also takes older kids whose parents are arrested for doing math over the years. These kids have gotten tougher. They've experienced more in a short Lifetime and often become the caregiver. Ronnie says these children have to learn how to be cared for they don't think they're going to get fed. If our electricity goes out because of a storm there sure we didn't pay the bill. Things like that. They are surprised when we go shopping when the shelves aren't bear and just the calmness that goes on Even in our busy (00:22:35) household to them (00:22:37) is is you know, they don't understand it. They're used to chaos all the time. And sometimes they try and create that chaos also right now Rohani has for foster children in her home two of them came to her about a year ago because of medical neglect their teeth were rotting right out of their mouth and just after they had pulled him and stuff then Mom was pregnant and it turned out that the baby was tested positive for meth. And so then all it kind of made sense as to why the neglect was so bad soon these children will learn they can't see their mom anymore. They are being adopted. Terry Rouhani has two other foster children a six year old girl and a three month old boy. She leaned. Um D. Is there Mom her son was born in February addicted to meth. I think that I was almost giving up I giving up because I didn't know if I could do this with another baby. I didn't know if I was a good mom Dum Dee says, she only used math at the end of her pregnancy. Her son had the highest levels of meth in his system of any baby born in Anoka County so far despite that doctors expect the baby will develop normally she leaned, um, D may get her kids back that is if she stays sober a judge ordered random drug test. She's being watched closely and she knows it Dum Dee has supervised visits with her two children. She's completed a 30 day treatment program and she has to follow a written sobriety plan every day. I do meditations. I read the wrong. A little affirmations in books that I have my call my sponsor daily. I can't have any boredom boredom will lead to using Dum Dee works part-time at a furniture store and she's also going to church she says every minute of every day. She fights her addiction, but she thinks she can beat it for herself. And for her kids foster. Mom, Terry, Rohani is hopeful she leaned MD will get her children back Ronnie takes the children to visit their mother. She also keeps Dum Dee informed of school activities in medical appointments. Now for the last image of math the close up of the people and children Terry rouhani's foster home is a safe place. There's a yard filled with bikes and swings and toys inside innocent blue eyes. Watch a visitor closely. Would you guys like to play with Legos or something? The dining room is a castle a gray and pink plastic power lines the wall. There are tubs of toys books dolls and Legos. The three-month-old has a bottle he is content to lay on a blanket and watch the other kids play. This is Terry Raha nice picture of math. The big picture doesn't really matter to her before children in her charge are her Focus, but she knows there are more coming when these children leave while researchers continue to study the long-term effects methods having on children social workers pediatricians and even foster parents are taking care of the children one at a time. You're a headland, Minnesota Public Radio, Anika County. I'm Rachel re B and this is a special Main Street broadcast from the Studio's of K and S are in Collegeville. We're listening to a special series on meth in Minnesota. Methamphetamine scares people. The stimulant is extremely addictive some say methamphetamine addiction is almost untreatable addiction counselors insist. That isn't true but kicking meth can require some new techniques Main Street radios, Bob Rihanna has the story. It's (00:26:29) busy day to Fergus Falls coffee shop several women sit at a table laughing trading stories high and hence sits nearby be fidgets in his chair while he sips coffee. Hence is a recovering meth addict when I was about 12. I was into smoking pot and drinking and I was about 16 somebody came along with some meth and that's how I got introduced to it for the next six years meth was the primary focus of hints life. He went through a series of jobs. He stole Family and friends to feed his habit. He got in trouble with the law. He was arrested and spent time in jail along the way hence bounced in and out of treatment programs on average once a year ranging from outpatient to relapse prevention to inpatient halfway houses things like that between 8 and 12 times since I was 14. Hence says meth is a tough addiction to be but it can be done. He hit rock bottom when he was busted on meth charges He was ordered into treatment. Once again, the treatment center I was in a lot of people were there because they wanted to be there so that played a big impact I think on my recovery just got me really excited about it right from the start you have to want it. I mean it has to not be fun anymore tune order to stop that was 18 months ago. Hence is still clean and sober Now 23, hence is going to college. He's planning for his future. My name is Jim Atkins and I am a recovering meth amphetamine addict for the past 10 years. Jim Atkins has worked at the Hazelden Treatment Center. He says treating meth addiction is difficult some drugs, like alcohol can take 48 to 72 hours to clear through your body with meth. It can take 6 weeks or longer to detox many meth addicts are still High when they're admitted to treatment. I can says they're agitated and paranoid. They'll have violent mood swings and hallucinations meth addicts can lose a lot of weight. The drug can change the color of your skin that can says in some cases a meth addiction is misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. We have to sort through what is drug-induced which which mental health issues are drug-induced in which might be there regardless of the drug. Some of those symptoms are short-term. Some of them go away. Some of them don't I can says sorting out which behaviors are meth-related takes time and care most insurance programs only cover 30 days of treatment. In fact, most addiction programs are 30 days or less a can says, it's common for someone hooked on meth to go days even weeks without sleep. He says when the drug leaves the body all an addict wants to do is sleep at can says that eats up precious time in the recovery program the way that a lot of insurance policies are written. And managed care companies are forced to operate because of their funding constraints. They want to measure progress and what's happening today. That's better than yesterday. And when someone's in early recovery when someone's in treatment for methamphetamine addiction, you're not going to see dramatic breakthroughs from one day to the next ask a recovering addict and they'll tell you the high from meth is incredible. Brad Brown is an addiction counselor for Prairie St. John's in Fargo Brown describes math as enhancing the pleasure Pathways in your brain and releases large amounts of dopamine and feel-good type chemicals throughout the brain and what happens is the brain has, you know, so much of that being released in it at one time that it sort of becomes accustomed to it if you will and it likes that it likes to pleasure that it's And for some people who are using the goal is to try to seek that pleasure. Every time the problem is it takes more and more meth to reach that Pleasure Point Brown says in the process the drug numbs the attic senses. He says treating a meth addict is difficult, but not impossible figures from the Minnesota Department of Human Services show more than thirty nine hundred people were admitted to treatment programs for meth addiction last year more than half of completed treatment. Brown is not aware of any statistics tracking the success rate of treatment for meth addicts, but he suspects the numbers are similar to those who seek professional help for any addiction 10 people come into treatment of those ten. Three are probably going to clean up with the first treatment three are going to relapse and clean up later and it might be a year later. It might be five years later. It might be 15 years later and then for probably Not going to clean up. So that means they're probably going to die from their illness. Some programs are beginning to establish database on recovery figures Gerard Vaz is an addiction counselor and the regional Treatment Center in Fergus Falls boss says defining success is tough does success include complete abstinence since treatment not using of any chemicals or to success include a person going out and maybe she's relapsed a couple times, but she's turned that around she's gone back to the to the meetings and now she's back on track. So it all depends on how you measure that success. When you start looking at success rates also has the most effective treatments integrates several approaches those include the 12-step program used by narcotics in Alcoholics Anonymous. He says a spiritual approach appeals to some but there is no magic solution Greg Peterson is Clinical Director at the regional Treatment Center. He says people need to understand. It's unrealistic. To expect a meth addict to break their habit easily says the physical challenges meth addiction percent make a first-time success unlikely throwing the onus back at a person that they're a total failure because they tried and they didn't make it gives you the mindset that well gee since I'm a failure already then why should I even bother to try again? And I think that's a mistaken thing counselors say being addicted to meth is not an excuse for a person's Behavior, but an explanation they say the key to recovery is getting an addict to realize if their behavior doesn't change they'll die Ryan hence seems to have gotten the message for hints recovery means going to meetings talking with the sponsor. He's made new friends people have nothing to do with meth. He doesn't miss his old way of life, but it have a guy once show some to me out of the blue. I was completely unexpected and I could feel like it feel like I did some just by seeing it and It was quite the experience for me. I just called call my sponsor right away and called some friends right away. And that was that him says he's lucky his family never gave up on him and says staying clean his hard work, but now he has a future to work toward. He's studying to be a counselor. He wants to help others beat meth Bob Rihanna, Minnesota Public Radio, Moorhead. (00:33:53) We're continuing our series on meth and Minnesota. You'll have a chance to get your questions answered from the experts at noon. But first, let's look at the availability of methamphetamine some Minnesota high school students say it's easier to get meth than alcohol. There are no hard numbers but reports from around the state indicate more kids are using methamphetamine experts say most schools aren't doing enough to prevent the spread of meth and there's no State funding for drug prevention in schools. Main Street. Radios. Dan Gunderson has our next report. It's the story of two teens. (00:34:28) Tyler is 17. He's thin was neatly trimmed blond hair and a choirboy face. He grew up in a middle-class family in the small town of Pelican Rapids about a year ago. He was at a party drinking beer and smoking pot. His friends pushed him to try meth. If you're going to be with us, you can't you gotta do math. And that's what I was thinking as the way I could be cool with them and I was pressured for about two hours to do it because I promised myself. I promised my family. I promised my brother promised a lot of people that I never do it and I did it when I took the hit it just felt so great. My body was feeling good and just felt so good that I told myself. I would never going to quit this Tyler says, he started smoking meth a couple times a week then every day then two or three times a day in six months. He lost 50 pounds his skin turned yellow. Tyler says meth consumed him if he wasn't using meth he was thinking about the drug. He wore makeup to cover the purple circles under his eyes. He developed a hair-trigger temper once smashing out all the windows of Friends car over a ten dollar debt, he remembers driving around at night randomly firing a rifle out the window. He was convinced the FBI was following him, but he felt Invincible you'd feel so powerful. I thought when I wore sunglasses, no one could see me after being awake for about two weeks. I didn't think anyone could see me walk right by a cop for in the morning sun glasses on, you know start attacking me. I just walked away Damon think he saw me Tyler was arrested and sent to a drug treatment program. He just got out of a halfway house. He's moved back home and he's trying to avoid his old friends Ida separated from everyone in my friends. And it was difficult because I had a friend ever since I was in kindergarten and he's still using him and I can't hang around with them because the fact is I'm going to use if I do last summer is mostly a blank for Tyler this summer. He's working two jobs and trying to catch up on school work. He wants to graduate next year, but he feels like he's lost part of his brain. I have no short-term memory and my brain. I don't know what's wrong with it. It's I've never been the same ever since I use math. I used to be an a student now. I try my hardest and I'm I see student it alternative school. Some researchers say methamphetamine causes permanent chemical changes in the brain. Tyler's brain may never recover from the Damage Done by math. There are dozens of stories like Tyler's in Otter Tail County. They motivate Sheriff Bryan Schlueter to speak to students at every opportunity. Nobody go to sleep go. Okay today Sheriff's litter gives his Power Point presentation to about 40 high school students in Fergus Falls. He is the drug prevention program here. He talked briefly about alcohol. It's by far the most commonly abused drug among students. But his focus is the drug that frightens this veteran cop meth. He doesn't mince words. He tells them he knows meth is in this school. Maybe some of them even use it. He says a student here was recently caught brewing a batch of meth in his backpack. He says guys who use meth will end up dealing drugs or stealing to support their habit girls. He says will turn to sex for drugs. I think one girl from our County. She was basically a straight A student as a junior gotten of this type of stuff and now she's out a living in a shaky old houses bunch of 50 year old drug dealers just it's just pathetic cherish litter tells the students if they choose to use meth, they'll end up in jail drug treatment or dead. He tells them It's up to them to take a stand against meth as the students file out of the classroom in the sheriff packs up his laptop computer. He shakes his head and wonders aloud if he's getting through to these kids. Some are looking around talking some Heather eyes closed. Neither wonder if anything's doing any good sometimes but I think they are hearing that I think gets the thought process is going. So whether it's wide sweeping good. I don't know. I hope so the sheriff says he simply had to do something. He says drug prevention efforts in school are a miserable failure and the past. We you know teach dear in the fifth grade and say you're good to go now and obviously that hasn't worked and it's a formula for failure if that's all you're going to do. I'm not seeing that there was bad but you have to do more than that. The sheriff thinks many schools are behind the curve on the meth problem. He says many school administrators and parents are in denial. There's no Statewide drug prevention effort in Minnesota. It's up to individual schools to decide if they need a prevention program as he leaves the school the sheriff stopped to chat with principal Greg winter. Winter says his school is not ignoring meth. He says schools have relatively little money for prevention programs. But he expects to stay ahead of the problem as far as the high school here. I don't think we're any worse off or any better off in the other schools. I think we do have some minor activity with all the education we have out there will hoping to keep it to a minimum a Fergus Falls High School student will call Melissa says math is fast becoming the students drug of choice. She says it's easier to get than alcohol Melissa grew up in what she calls an All-American family. Her dad is a successful businessman. She got mostly A's in school last summer. She started using meth. She took the Habit with her back to school last fall. I bought (00:39:55) drugs in school. It's two slaps of the hands you slap someone's hand and give them the money and they slap your hand and give you a job just looks like some goofy handshake that you do. The teachers I mean, they could be right in front of you and it doesn't matter, you know, because no one pays (00:40:13) attention. There's no up-to-date scientific survey of Matthew's in this school or any other principal Greg winter says if there's meth use its minimal a handful of students law enforcement officials don't know chemical dependency counselors say they don't know Melissa says one in five students in her school use math. She says the users include athletes and honor students. (00:40:36) It's not just your typical pot-smoking loser that skip school and goes and does drugs. It's it's (00:40:44) everyone Melissa says she maintained good grades while she was using meth her parents and teachers had no idea. She was going to school high every day this winter the paranoia and hallucinations begin to scare her. She quit on her own and joined a local narcotics anonymous group for support. Melissa says, she's been clean for months, but she craves Meth every (00:41:06) day because the drugs your best friend and you have to say goodbye to that and it's hard thing to do to say goodbye to any you know of your closest friends. (00:41:16) Melissa says meth became her friend because she felt like an outsider at (00:41:20) school. I've never been popular. I've never been to the most beautiful girl in school. I've never you know been in that group that so looked up to by the rest of the school. So I thought well Then I'll just use a drugs because I don't matter. Anyways, (00:41:42) the 17 year old says she now has a purpose in life. She's volunteering with a local organization that takes meth addicts into schools to tell their stories. Melissa says prevention programs in the schools had no effect on her or her friends. So what do kids think is the most effective prevention Melissa and a half dozen other students all give the same answer random drug testing (00:42:03) because that's an awesome. Excuse to tell someone. Well, I can't do this because I get random drug tests for my parents and I'll be in huge trouble if I have any drugs in my system (00:42:13) experts say prevention is the key to slowing the spread of meth in schools. But as one state official put it it's hard to think about prevention when you're trying to stop the bleeding Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio, (00:42:25) Moorhead. I'm Rachel riebe the effects of methamphetamine use are working their way through our Criminal Justice System. The rapid rise in meth arrest is one of the main factors in sharply higher prison populations. We continue our series on meth and Minnesota talking about the dollars and cents of addiction the cost of housing drug offenders has renewed an old debate what works best prison or treatment the debate over State drug policies came into sharp Focus this year in a case involving methamphetamine jail time and a young Minnesota mother Main Street radios. Mark style has the (00:43:05) story The Numbers tell a Troublesome story about 40% of the state's felony drug convictions involve methamphetamine. That's more than 1,300 cases about 90% of those offenders spend time Behind Bars and local jails are state prisons, Minnesota Corrections officials can feel the explosion inmates convicted of a drug charge including Math make up about 1/4 of the 7600 adults in prison. That number has doubled in just six years 22 year-old Amber Bloom is one of those headed to jail Bloom faces a six-month sentence. She pleaded guilty to methamphetamine possession. It's her second meth conviction. She also pleaded guilty to possession in 1999 in the days before she sent away. She regrets her drug use (00:43:51) I loved about high school. I do all over I'd go to prom I'd be more Sports. I missed everything I missed my graduation ceremony I missed. Living (00:44:05) church-going small-town girl bloom once considered herself. Goody goody. She says her path to jail began with cigarettes marijuana followed then methamphetamine. Her life is filled with tragedy. She says two of her friends killed themselves because of meth Bloom hasn't used the drug for two years, but she still feels the effects she hears and sees things that aren't there. She warns teenagers stay away from myth. (00:44:31) If they don't want to hear voices and stuff then they shouldn't use they don't want to here the insanity and craziness and I know it's evil. I pray every day that it will go (00:44:45) away. That's not all she's dealing with the mother of a two-year-old son. Bloom is scared of going to jail. She pleaded guilty to years ago to her second meth charge but is free on appeal in her appeal. She says the sentence is too harsh that jail will do more harm than good at punishing her son as well. Bloom says, she's beat her addiction. She went through drug treatment finished high school and held a (00:45:10) job. I'm sober now and I don't see you. I don't see why I need to get punished for being an addict when I got help now. I'm just going to go to jail. Everything is just going to fall apart on me again. And then I got to pick it up again when I get back out of jail. (00:45:29) That's a real life summary of the anti prison Pro treatment argument. It's gaining support from some influential members of Minnesota Government Canberra blooms appeal went to the state supreme court the court upheld her six-month sentence, but not without reservation. The court said Minnesota Law requires jail time for a second drug conviction, but the justices also noted their disfavor with mandatory sentences many feel it takes away their discretion in a separate opinion associate Justice James. Gilbert said Bloom has turned her life around noting her sobriety Gilbert wrote Bloom has done everything the criminal justice system. Could hope for he agreed. However that because of the way State drug laws are written Amber blue must go to jail just as Gilbert would not comment directly on the bloom case, but he did talk about how Minnesota's criminal justice system is being tested by the increase in drug arrests. Well, there's no question that the problem is there and it's not going to go away if we just pretend it's not there it switches from the drug of choice now. In Greater, Minnesota is a drug of choice. And in my opinion that's almost like an epidemic Justice. Gilbert says the state should look for alternatives to prison time. He promotes the use of drug courts. Currently. There are seven such courts operating in Minnesota in a drug court offenders are sent to treatment Gilbert says there's a powerful incentive for offenders to complete the program. They realize if they step out of bounds and don't follow the the mercy if you will it has been granted them by the court. They're going to be going into jail real quick. The sheer cost of prison is incentive for some to rethink State drug laws Republican state representative, Eric Lippmann of Lake Elmo says too many people are being imprisoned. He says it will cost Minnesota taxpayers another three hundred million dollars in prison expenses over the next 10 years unless drug laws are changed Littman says Minnesota sentences are among the harshest in the nation a person can spend more than seven years in jail for just 25 grams of meth. That's the weight of 25 paid. Clips in most other states the sentence would be a year behind bars. So we are many many times higher than most every place else in the u.s. In ways that I think are very expensive to the taxpayer and corrosive to the community in comparison with what deterrent effect. We are getting and what rehabilitative for effect. We're getting Lippmann says without adequate treatment many offenders start using drugs as soon as they're released from prison. He's tried without luck to get the legislature to change Minnesota law and send more people to treatment a report by the Minnesota sentencing guidelines commission says treatment would save money the study says prison costs the state nearly $30,000 a year per inmate treatment is just over four thousand dollars. But those against relaxing drug laws say something more important than money is at risk dfl state representative John Legend of st. Paul says easing penalties will lead to more drug use. It strikes me as the Walmart bill for drug dealers, you know low low prices for buying in bulk less works as a prosecutor for the city of st. Paul. He says judges have enough leeway now to deal with drug offenders. He says judges often give lighter sentences for drug crimes than state law recommends the sentencing guidelines commission report offers support for that claim about half the people convicted of manufacturing meth receive a lighter sentence than called for in state guidelines. In fact, the report says judicial departure from State recommended sentences has been consistently high for drug offenses, but not in all cases Amber Bloom awaits jail time, even though one Supreme Court Justice said that sentence amounted to unmitigated harshness Bloom says, it sends a signal (00:49:13) I'm one of the few that didn't straighten up and I did get my life together and went to treatment and I've been trying to go to school and everything else and I feel like they're just telling me that it's not good enough. Like who cares if you get sober you're still a piece of crap (00:49:35) that sense of worthlessness is the kind of attitude that can contribute to more drug. Use Bloom says that won't happen to her. She says her son is all the incentive. She needs to stay away from methamphetamine, but many others fall victim to the drug time after time. That means more crime and offer State lawmakers a challenge spend more money for prisons or take the politically risky step of relaxing drug laws. Mark style, Minnesota Public Radio (00:50:05) In our Main Street radio series method Minnesota, the stories have shown how rural communities are fighting the spread of methamphetamine small towns are indeed fighting a dangerous battle against the cheap and Powerful stimulant. But in some ways it's the urban tale that reveals much about the roots of meth in Minnesota and its future here Minnesota public radio's Jeff whore which reports (00:50:29) think about the images the news stories you've seen about math in this state imagine the tubes and Vats among the broken furniture and filth of a rundown Shack in the country think of the Haggard Sleepless meth cook dumping hazardous waste down the kitchen sink (00:50:44) then think again (00:50:45) sure these places exist State officials found more than 400 mini meth labs last year, but they are not the heart of the Minnesota meth Supply. The Twin Cities is think of it as a meth Depot 80% of our meth comes from out-of-state smuggled in delivery trucks and hollowed out car bumpers after changing hands here much of Leaves again for the suburbs Indian reservations and small towns where meth ruins lives Tim counts is a spokesman for us Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One of the many law enforcement agencies trying to choke off the meth pipe line to the Twin Cities region see that this is kind of a transshipment point in the Upper Midwest. Some of it is headed for Chicago area's out east. They think some of it is even headed for Canada. So they definitely see this as not only a place for end users but also was a Transit point a particular map of the u.s. Normally available only to law enforcement is a good illustration. It shows two major meth trafficking band stretching across the country a yellow band Rises up from Mexico through Texas in the Grain Belt a pink one reaches from Southern California Northeast through Colorado pink and yellow meet in the Twin Cities, I think would be unrealistic to say that law enforcement has a real good idea of how much is coming in. We certainly don't intercept the majority of it Sergeant. Jeff Miller works on the Unit of the Minneapolis Police. He says if anything the era of the isolated rural meth lab is waning the health hazards are too great. The risk of capture is rising so called super labs in the southwest and Mexico can churn out 10 pounds of meth in a day compared with the few grams painstakingly produced in a mini lab Miller says this mass-produced math that arrives here is cheap that doesn't mean the street prices are falling addicts after all are willing to pay What It Takes what it does mean is big money for thriving network of middlemen. There's huge profits to be made. I think at most of the steps are many of the steps the methamphetamine can be reduced in Purity or cut as we say and so you can essentially double your money anything from powdered vitamin C to scouring powder or fiberglass can invisibly dilutes notable powdered methamphetamine some middlemen cook the powder into crystals the smokeable form of meth. Then the distribution networks kick in essentially the dealers For the Dealer's the shipment is broken up into a number of smaller shipments and these are turned over to they could be black street gangs. It could be white motorcycle gangs. It could be independent entrepreneurs that are out to doing this business in November the head of the Minnesota Hells Angels began a 17-year federal prison sentence investigators. Say Patrick matter ran a meth distribution ring out of his North Minneapolis motorcycle shop Miller says another investigation still unfolding has netted a dozen people this spring they include the Mexican Nationals who brought the drugs here. The trail is also led to a Minneapolis bars some Associates in st. Paul and a storage location in Forest Lake where 40 pounds of meth were recovered and occasional big bust like this doesn't mean Miller is encouraged budget cuts have brought the Minneapolis narcotics unit from 16 officers in 2001. 211 today. Their meth seizures were down 70 percent last year, even as meth activity is on the rise (00:54:03) and the unit has other things (00:54:04) on their plate. Namely cocaine and crack cocaine where Street dealing and guns can create their own more pressing problems to a Narcotics officer. The Twin Cities meth scene is mostly about the business the trade the supply feeding the rest of the state this can overshadow the fact that meth addiction affects thousands of lives here in 2003 more than 1,700 residents of the seven-county Metro received treatment for meth 44% of all meth cases Statewide 20 years ago I'd (00:54:32) say back then they called it (00:54:34) cranked and I used to just snort it back then but I'd say within about the (00:54:38) last three years (00:54:40) on and off. I've been mixed in with the really high-grade the fluff. This is Susan 38 years old a Minneapolis stay-at-home mom, or she was until Child Protection took her three children and charged her with endangerment water being turned off or house practically going into foreclosure. And my children as much as I hid it from them. I mean they (00:55:02) notice differences like I'd be up really late at night. They get up in the middle of the (00:55:06) night to go to the bathroom or something and I'd still be up doing stuff in April. She checked into a halfway house for treatment. Susan is not her real name. She says meth makes people paranoid and angry and it's better her former Associates. Don't know she's telling her story in the past year Susan and her then-husband began cooking their own meth with friends one chore involved buying or shoplifting the ingredients drain cleaner Sudafed fertilizer from local stores Menards our hardware stores (00:55:34) for some of it (00:55:35) the pseudoephedrine just from like Walgreens or rainbow. (00:55:38) You couldn't get your whole Supply from one place. You had to hit like a couple of Walgreens or coupled rainbows just so you wouldn't draw attention to (00:55:48) yourself. Susan says she took care of herself using in small amounts and forcing herself to eat and oversight that leaves some meth addicts looking emaciated. She says many addicts in the Twin Cities are like Her hard to (00:56:00) spot some people just seem like they're high energy. They don't exhibit the typical signs of Matthew's like, you know, anorexic looking (00:56:10) bad teeth that that type of thing. Some people are able to function to the outside world as regular people. Susan is white. So we're more than 90% of those who got meth treatment in the Twin Cities last year, but the drugs appeal is growing three percent of those users were Hispanic and earlier this year warming moua profiled young crystal meth addicts in his st. Paul base newspaper Hmong today. They would call it a budgie. Which means Rock condom which means candy John Young which is you know, the good stuff Lewis says young people use meth to stay up and party through the night Hmong girls use it to lose weight street gangs deal it to make money and more says math is a Common Thread in recent crimes that have put the community in the news one of the reasons why we started looking into Crystal Is because you would read, you know among pimps with adolescent girls. So we looked further into it and found out yeah, you know in almost every case of prostitution within the Hmong Community crystal meth is the drug that they litter these girls into with more says Hmong Community reaction to the newspaper story has been harsh. I definitely think that the community has to look at it and say, you know, I got a niece who's on it. I got a brother who's on it. I got a cousin my daughter there on it and I need help. I don't think they understand how powerful that drug is how destructive every actually is the Hmong are another example of the meth reality that plays against stereotype new ethnic communities being affected a lot of urban meth addicts and the Twin Cities pipeline of cheap Mexican stuff that actually feeds the Minnesota habit. That's not the math. We thought we knew I'm Jeff whore which Minnesota Public (00:57:57) Radio You've been listening to a special Main Street report on methamphetamine meth amphetamine has become one of the most available and abused narcotics in the country. It's also very addictive made in homegrown Laboratories with common materials. Methamphetamine is having a serious effect on law enforcement social services. And our young people officials. Say meth is responsible for an increase in violent crime domestic abuse and toxic waste the drug poses a particular problem in rural Minnesota where manufacturers avoid detection by cooking it up in remote locations meth labs have been discovered in hunting Shacks fish houses. And in the back of pickup trucks, you can log on to Minnesota Public Radio dot-org to see all the reports as well as additional information about the spread of methamphetamine. You can also hear this broadcast at Minnesota Public Radio dot org will continue our focus on methamphetamine at noon with a live panel of experts. It's all coming up after the news. Minnesota public radio's Main Street radio coverage is supported by blandin Foundation based in Grand Rapids dedicated to strengthening rural Minnesota communities through its leadership development programs grants and public policy initiatives. (00:59:18) stuck in traffic There's not much you can do to shorten your commute. But you can do something to shorten the upcoming fun drive contribute today at Minnesota Public Radio dot-org. When we reach our goal will in the drive, there are eight hundred eight hundred eight thousand three hundred ninety seven dollars left to go make a difference today at Minnesota Public Radio dot-org Twin Cities weather for today this afternoon partly cloudy a chance of showers and thundershowers developing this afternoon the high 75 to 80 40 percent chance of rain and 80% a rather 60% chance of rain tonight tomorrow partly cloudy the high the high around 75 degrees presently in the Twin Cities. We have mostly sunny skies 73 degrees. This is 91.1 knnow Minneapolis st. Paul. Once again, Sonny and 73 in the Twin Cities.