Methamphetamine, Part 5

Remember Zach Spieker? The kid I spoke about in my first column who finally died from an overdose back on on Feb. 22nd?

Pat Merriman

By Pat Merriman 

Dunn Co. State’s Attorney

He’d moved back home to Minnesota to get away from dealers in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The real problem, though? No drug rehab facilities there anyway. “His mother, Chris Spieker, said drug treatment facilities across the river in Fargo wouldn’t take her son due to insurance stipulations over residency. There were other places we tried, but unless we had $8,000 to $10,000 cash up front, they wouldn’t take him,” she said. And, without that help, the other addicts feed off the one trying to recover, “One dealer in particular would taunt him with it,” Chris said. And, that is really the crux of the mess that the federal and state prison officials are foisting off onto counties like Dunn County. That’s right, the “state” is going to stop spending money on incarceration but, whose going to pay for all of this treatment that everyone in Washington and Bismarck keep talking about? And, if we can’t “spend” our way out of this mess, then aren’t we still going to be spending? Because, I don’t care which public pocket it’s coming out of there, bucko, it’s still tax money, eh?

OK, so, you’ve got a loved one with a drug problem. What do you do? First, your addict is going to need professional help to stop the addiction cycle. You can’t do it alone. And, even then, the statistics aren’t pretty. Remember, this is NOT just about using methamphetamine…it’s a lifestyle. People, places and pressure. People become addicts and surround themselves with their own, particular comfort zone. So, it’s also about divesting yourself of every person or thing that enables the abuse to continue. And, frankly, most people just don’t have the strength of character to do it at all, let alone on their own. But, in martial arts there is a Buddhist proverb, “Everything changes, nothing remains without change.” The addict is eventually going to hit the wall and, someone who cares needs to call for help… before it’s too late and the change is terminal.

Focus on the addict’s children and spouse. Remember, this is a marathon NOT a sprint. The addict has a row to hoe but, there are others who are now going to suffer too. Don’t buy the lie, misguided attempts to shift the blame for the addict’s conduct off onto the cops or the job or the tragedy or whatever. “If you weren’t harassing me, I would be a good citizen”, unfortunately, missing the point that they ARE a “criminal” not a victim. Remember, their loved ones need financial help—3 hots and a cot. Too many people say, “I’ll pray for you and your family.” That’s good but, there are material needs to be dealt with too—food, shelter and a shoulder to cry on. And, they need to be protected from the addict, so, step up!

Second, because meth is so highly addictive and popular, there is a sort of good news too—you are NOT alone. There actually ARE professionals standing by to help, albeit, not here in the oil patch and insurance (generally) pays for it, albeit, far too little! There are literally millions of people around the world who are dealing with this according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime— “more than 500 metric tons of meth are produced each year and abused by nearly 25 million people. In 2008, it was reported by the United States government that nearly 13 million people ages 12 and older had used meth in their lifetime, with more than a half-million of them regular users.” According to, “Meth treatment admissions have tripled in the United States in a 10-year period…In 2007, more than 48% of treatment admissions were for meth abuse.” That number jumped another 13% from 2011-12 with the average age of 15-17 for first time users. And, incredibly the breakdown among genders is almost identical—52.4% male, 47.6% female. Unfortunately, the average age for voluntary commitment to rehab is age 34 which is significantly higher than other abused drugs and this is a drug used almost exclusively by white Americans.

Third, professional, in-patient treatment (and mental health services) is/ are going to be necessary because kicking the meth habit is so difficult. Remember, absent some intervening cause, your addict is going to “lie until they die.” The lies? They can do it on their own, they’ve got it under control, out-patient is going to work, I’ll just attend some NA meetings, I’ve been testing clean. That is what they project as the “illusion” because that’s what they think their loved ones want to hear. The reality is that withdrawal includes physical pain, depression, intense cravings and even suicidal thoughts. Hence, why, according to the Foundation for a Drug- Free World, 93% of those actually in treatment end up relapsing. And, according to the publication Methamphetamine Labs, our national rate of meth addiction recovery is 16-20% but, “without the best inpatient or outpatient treatment, a meth addict may live only 5-7 years, so it’s imperative to get help soon.”

Fourth, meth addiction ravages the mind, body and soul. The constant craving is relentless. In addition, the recovery period is very slow, frustrating, and, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “it can take more than one year for meth users to regain various functions in their brain, including focus and impulse control. Being in a rehab program for an extended period of time – away from the pressures of meth use – can help one regain mental functions more quickly.” In other words, what compels addicts to actually recover is going to be in-patient, I can’t check myself out, treatment FOR A LONG TIME. And, folks, that either comes from the front end—loved ones, law enforcement and mental health officers; or, from the back end—arrest, prosecution, incarceration, probation/parole and forced treatment and surveillance. It’s the only thing works.

Fifth, at a minimum, According to NIDA, “Once meth users complete inpatient treatment, the Matrix Model requires 16 weeks of intense counseling and attendance in support groups. Patients are educated about addiction and relapse and regularly monitored for drug use. Patients are guided by a therapist, who also serves as teacher and coach…In order for meth treatment and recovery to be successful, it must include a combination of elements.” Finally, the longer one has been addicted, the harder it is to become sober and remain that way for an extended period of time. So, the sooner they get in rehab, the more likely it is they recover.

Which brings me to the end of this week’s segment. Folks, in-patient treatment does NOT exist out here. So, at the end of the day, stir up a ruckus. If this state is getting out of the prison business, in favor of treatment, then they have a moral and ethical duty to actually provide those services. We may have had a few meth addicts out here BEFORE this oil boom but, the problem exploded as a result of it. It’s time to stop paying lip service and, actually DO something. Enough said!

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