By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
Recovering addicts Carrie Hicks and Wendy Calhoun want to do their part to prevent young people from following the path they took that led to homelessness, jail time and difficulties in their families.
The two women spoke with the Monroe Journal last August as a new organization – Mothers Against Methamphetamine – was forming in Amory.
Elizabeth Spradling of Fulton shared her pain as the mother of an addict with the Itawamba County Times, after her 21-year-old son, Travis Jaryd “TJ” Spradling was sentenced to spend the next half of his life – 20 years – in prison for drug-related crimes.
“My husband and I lost homes and businesses,” Calhoun said. “Meth almost killed me. I wouldn’t give it up. All I thought about was getting high.”
Every day one or more of the law enforcement agencies across Northeast Mississippi – from Tishomingo to Benton County, Union to Clay, and in Oktibbeha and Lafayette – arrest suspects on drug possession and trafficking charges, most often cocaine and its crack derivative, and methamphetamine.
Crack cocaine is the primary drug threat in Mississippi, followed closely by methamphetamine, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“The abuse and distribution of cocaine is associated with more incidents of violent crime than any other drug within the state,” says the 2008 Mississippi statistical profile. “Methamphetamine is the second most serious drug threat in Mississippi due to its increasing availability, low cost, rapid growth of abuse and its threat to human life and the environment.”
None of that data is news to Capt. Marvis Bostick of the Tupelo Police Department, who heads the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit. He and his team of drug enforcement investigators work daily to eliminate illegal drug activity in the region.
Since about 1998 when area law enforcement first began hearing about it, the manufacture of methamphetamine has been on the rise, Bostick said.
“At that time the majority of it was made and trucked in, but in about 2000, the DEA said ‘it’s coming your way’,” Bostick said. “We went to Virginia for training on how to dismantle meth labs, which is basically how to handle and dispose of hazardous materials.”
From 2006 until July 2010, 70 to 80 percent of drug cases in Prentiss County were meth-related, said Narcotics Investigator Joey Clark.
“Since July 2010 when the Sudafed law took off, we’ve had 30 arrests for meth manufacturing and related charges,” Clark said, which is lower than the rate they had been seeing before.
Keeping up with trends
A law that went into effect in July 2010 made pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in manufacturing meth, a Schedule III controlled substance that requires a doctor’s prescription. Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in many over-the-counter decongestants like Sudafed and Advil Cold and Sinus.
The commonly-termed Sudafed law is one of several new legal tools lawmakers have given the law enforcement community to combat the state’s fluid drug scene.
Last year the Legislature passed a law banning Spice, a product commonly available in convenience stores that mimics the effects of marijuana.
A law passed this year bans the sale of chemicals sold as bath salts with names like Ivory Wave, Bliss and White Lightning, listing them as Schedule I narcotics that are not legitimate for medical use. Until now, the products, which have effects similar to methamphetamine, but with heightened dangerous side-effects, have provided users and addicts a legal “high.”
“Lately the regular meth users have been saying they’re using it, that everybody is trying it now,” said Bostick.
Though authorities are responding more quickly to new drug threats, the old ones are still causing their share of havoc.
Crack cocaine, more than the powder form of the drug, is what city Narcotics Investigator Josh Davis said he’s seeing in Booneville.
“Crack is more the urban drug, and meth is more rural,” Davis said. “And of course we always have marijuana too.”
The quality of the marijuana is different than users in the past may have known, said Alcorn County’s Narcotics Investigator Darrell Hopkins.
“Some growers are using hydroponics, growing the plants in a water environment, which produces a high-grade, very strong product that is highly addictive and dangerous,” Hopkins said.
The abuse and illegal use of prescription drugs also is rising quickly across Northeast Mississippi counties.
“Selling your prescription, or even giving it away, is a felony,” Hopkins said. “If you transfer a medicine that was prescribed for you and the person has an allergic reaction and dies, you could be charged with homicide.”
He and Alcorn investigator Michael Martin say MDMA – the amphetamine-like stimulant and hallucinogen also known as ecstasy – also is an increasing problem. They’re seeing it among college students used as a date-rape drug.
“It goes through the system so fast and can be out of the system before a person is tested,” Martin said. “It increases the body temperature and the system can become overheated and shut down, causing death.”
With marijuana – called the gateway drug that introduces young people to other drugs – cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA, Spice, Ivory Wave and likely other dangerous drugs yet unknown, not only the drug enforcement community, but also ordinary people like the Mothers Against Methamphetamines must remain vigilant.
By organizing the group, Monroe County Sav-A-Life’s Dana Copeland is working to stem the tide. She got involved in the meth world through the court-ordered parenting classes she teaches, often to parents who lost their children due to meth use.
“I realized it was so big in Monroe County that something needed to be done for the families,” she said.
The Monroe Journal and Itawamba County Times contributed to this story. Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.