Havre Daily News
Jen, a girl from Butte, started using methampetamine when she was 11 years old. While she was high, she was raped by a fellow user.
“He gave me an eightball. I just said, OK, that was worth it,” Jen said in a Montana Meth Project radio ad.
She said that was when she started selling her body for the drug.
The anti-meth ads are played on radio and television stations, and ads cover billboards across the state, including in Havre.
Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson said although there is not an ad with youths from Hill County telling their story, meth is an issue in town.
“No one (in an ad) said ‘Brett from Havre,' that doesn't mean it's not here. Don't wait until it's your paper boy or your nephew,” Peterson said at a meth community forum held Monday.
About 100 people attended the forum, the third of its kind in Havre.
Speakers included Montana Meth Project
director Peg Shea and Kathy Woodward from the Yellowstone City-County Health Department. Peterson was the master of ceremonies.
When Peterson hears people say meth is not prevalent in Hill County,
“that makes my jaw drop to the ground,” she said.
“How could you not see we have a problem?” Peterson added.
Hill County sheriff Greg Szudera said about 50 percent of inmates in the Hill County Detention Center are in for meth and meth-related crimes.
“It seems to be the drug of choice a lot of inmates are using when committing their crimes,” Szudera said today.
He said the number of inmates has about doubled in the last three years due to meth use. Szudera said if the trend continues the jail will need to be expanded in the next few years.
“We all need to take a closer look at what's going on in our community and be more aware,” he said.
Peterson began the forum by reading a poem by Judy West, a meth user who was in jail at the time she wrote “I am Meth.”
The last lines of the poem are “I can bring you more misery than words can tell, Come take my hand, let me lead you to Hell.” Not long after being released from jail, West was found dead, Peterson said.
“We should not let anyone go down that road,” she said.
Havre Public Schools hosted training for Hi-Line health and physical education teachers, counselors and administrators. Montana State University-Hill County extension agent Jennifer Wells also participated in the training. Wells presented a “meth tool kit,” which includes lesson plans on meth and meth-related
issues and informative handouts. Each Havre school will have a tool kit. Student assemblies were held throughout the day at Havre High School.
County Commissioner Doug Kaercher has been making presentations on meth and its impacts for local groups and organizations. He said anyone who wants a presentation made to their group can call the commission's office at the Hill County Courthouse at 265-5481, ext. 227. Kaercher's next presentation will be at the Chinook Senior Center on May 23 at 11:15 am.
“Meth is taking over our county,” Kaercher said.
Awareness is the first step in prevention, he said.
Peterson said she wants to work on preven-
tion in place of prosecution.
Woodward said she was impressed with Havre community's involvement in the issue.
“I haven't been to a community like this. You are way ahead of the game.
(There are) so many committed citizens willing to come back three times to talk about meth,” she said to the crowd.
Montana was one of the first states to see meth use, Woodward said.
She said the average age range of first-time meth users is 20 to 22.
The two top reasons users gave for trying meth the first time is experimentation and peer pressure, she said. Women are likely to use the drug to self medicate for depression and for weight loss. Woodward said the weight issues are the hardest to tackle. With “The Jenny crank diet” as it is known to some, meth users can drop 10 pounds in one weekend, Woodward said.
She said most users pile on 50 to 100 pounds when they quit using the drug, which leads many to go back on the drug when they are released from rehabilitation. Another common problem with meth addicts is body dismorphic disorder. Woodward said she has come across women who have dropped to 80 pounds and think they need to lose weight.
Men are most likely to take the drug to work longer hours, Woodward said. These same men end up getting fired when they can't stay awake or or miss work due to their drug use.
“They end up losing their job and just doing meth,” she said. Woodward said the reasons many start using the drugs are for increased energy, inflated confidence and reduced inhibitions.
“It's interesting how meth gives you increased confidence and then does the opposite,” she said.
The effects of meth use include insomnia, erectile disfunction, nausea and dental deterioration or “meth mouth,” Woodward said. Women in rehabilitation facilities Woodward has visited have pulled their own teeth out, in fear that if they went to a professional, the dentist would know they were using.
Meth also enhances sexual desire, a dangerous side effect when combined with erectile and sexual disfunction, Woodward said.
“Some have never had sober sex in their lives,” she said.
Users have sexual thoughts but can't perform, which may lead to attempted rapes and molestation, Woodward said.
Woodward said the drug is still new and long-term impacts are not known.
“It's the not knowing, which makes it even scarier,” she said.
The drug affects every user differently. Some have a nice smile, some have huge, acne-like sores, Woodward said.
She said one of the most disturbing effects of the drug is what she refers to as “tweaking” or “getting lost in the mirror.” Users repeat a behavior like picking at a blemish or plucking out their eyebrows, as seen in one of the Montana Meth Project television ads.
Woodward said she had one patient who thought the veins in her feet were worms and continually tried to dig them out of her skin.
She showed pictures of meth users' deterioration after as little as four months of using. Woodward said she tell students to look at the “deadness in the eyes.”
Woodward said the impact meth has on a person's life and body continues long after they kick the habit.
“When you take them off of meth - their brain function actually gets worse,” she said.
Word memory problems were given to ex-meth users who could get about six out of 16 words right when they entered rehab, the number dropped on the three-month mark and by six months of not using, patients got an average of one out of 16 words correct, Woodward said.
The first six months of sobriety are the worst in terms depression and addicts need to know it'll get worse with time, she said.
In studies done with monkeys, it took about two years to get brain function almost back to normal after meth was injected, Woodward said.
Shea said she has been working with the Montana Meth Project in “unselling meth.” She said the project's goal is to show people that the negatives of meth use outweigh the perceived benefits.
“They smack you right in the face,” Shea said of the ads.
The Montana Meth Project includes a series of graphic ads about the devastating impacts methamphetamine has on users.
Shea has traveled the state getting feedback from students, teachers and parents. She said she primarily gets positive reactions from students but has heard comments from parents who think the ads are too graphic.
“This is a brain toxin,” Shea said. “We need to significantly reduce first-time use.”
She showed the crowd the new crop of ads. Shea said that according to surveys, the ads have been opening up conversation between parents and their children about meth.
Prevention and awareness are the best ways to combat the use of meth, Kaercher said.
Rocky Boy tribal council member Jonathan Windy Boy challenged the crowd to join his meth task force on the reservation. At the end of the meeting, a list was made of people interested in starting a task force or coalition about the drug.
Shea said, after the meeting, she thought the “community involvement was outstanding.”
Woodward said she agreed.
“This was my first time seeing so many high-level officials at a meeting in a small community,” she said.
“I see good things in Havre's future with the community involvement I saw,” she added.