November 16, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

The weekend before a western Kentucky conference on the impact of methamphetamine on families and the environment, news of a mobile “meth” lab explosion was broadcast on local television.

The explosion in nearby southern Illinois was just a reminder of the dangers of methamphetamine use and production, said Torey Earle, chairman of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s Western Regional Drug Awareness Quick Response Team.

Methamphetamine use in western Kentucky is at higher levels than other areas of the state. Of those admitted for drug treatment statewide in 2004, methamphetamine amounted to 6.2 percent, said Terry Stinson, prevention specialist with RiverValley Behavioral Health Regional Prevention Center in Owensboro. However, he noted that in his region of the state the rate was 38.3 percent and in the region that includes Princeton, the rate was 26 percent.

Tackling drug abuse and awareness, especially methamphetamines, is an area where Extension in western Kentucky wanted to focus its efforts. The task force was organized two years ago.

“This is the second educational program that we have done,” Earle said. “The first was geared primarily toward Extension agents and giving them the information to spread the word. This one is more for the general public.

“I think there have been some eyes opened,” he said. “I don’t think some people realized how big of a problem it was. It is not as bad here as in some other places, but with the report this weekend of a mobile lab in a car blowing up, some people still don’t realize not only how dangerous the use of it is but so is the manufacturing.”

Cheyenne Albro, director of the Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force, said he first began seeing methamphetamine labs in 1996 when two were discovered in the task force’s 14-county region. By 1998, they had worked 145 labs by October. They are not seeing as many labs today thanks to changes in state laws. But the meth problem still exists, he said.

“We are still seeing a lot of crystal meth out of California and Mexico,” he said. 

Stinson said methamphetamine addiction is difficult to treat because those being treated are extremely resistant to any form of intervention once the acute effect of the drug is gone. During this period, recovering addicts feel depressed, fuzzyheaded and think life isn’t as pleasurable without the drug and prolonged use causes changes in the brain. 

Methamphetamine causes more damage to a person’s physical, behavioral and thinking functions than any other illicit drug, he said. Its effects can last up to six months for just one use, and meth addiction takes longer to treat than addictions to cocaine or heroin. Many treatments currently fail. 

Attending the two-day meeting at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton were more than 100 public health workers, school system staff, social workers, Extension personnel and other interested people.

The first day of training focused on family and community alliances, treatment resources and methamphetamine legislation. The second day’s focus was on environmental impacts on farm and family, including the standards for cleanup and remediation.

The workshop was sponsored by Cooperative Extension, UK Health Education through Extension Leadership (HEEL) program, Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force, Eastern Kentucky University Training Consortium and the Butler County Extension Homemaker Association.

The goals of the training are to increase awareness, educate people on the resources available to families and, ultimately, to curb the use and manufacture of the drug in western Kentucky.

“Unless the general public gets involved, knows what to look for and when to look for it, until that happens it is not going to go away,” Earle said.

Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278

Contact: Torey Earle, 270-554-9520