Law enforcement officials weigh in on meth use

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 | 6:31 p.m. CST; updated 12:51 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Detective Clark Luntsford of the Boone County Sheriff’s department’s drug enforcement unit says that the effects of meth on addicts and their families are much worse “than even crack cocaine in the ‘80s.”

Gordon Taylor, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Sacramento office, has worked with the agency for 20 years. When he started in San Diego in the 1980s, methamphetamine was only a problem on the West Coast.

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“We talked at the time and said if this ever takes hold in other parts of the country, we’re gonna be in a mess,” he said. “It took longer than we expected, but when it did, it spread like wildfire across the country.

“I look at methamphetamine as a weapon of mass destruction — not literally, but in terms of the damage and destruction it causes with users and the community,” Taylor said.

Meth use raises heart rate and causes tooth decay, tooth grinding, and brain damage. It also makes users more aggressive and paranoid, said Sgt. Ethan Ahern of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and commander of the mid-Missouri narcotics task force.

“We call the people we bring in ‘tweakers.’ They fidget nonstop and can’t sit still,” Ahern said. “They have severe muscle twitching and are extremely paranoid. They think they see things all the time.”

Luntsford said meth is unique in its addictive strength.

“I know people who say, I used to smoke crack or I used to do heroine,” he said. “But I’ve never heard anybody say, I used to do meth.”

Like Luntsford, Ahern has been struck by the addictiveness of meth.

“I have never personally seen a person I’ve dealt with recover,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a success story out there somewhere. I’ve just never seen one.”

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