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Program illustrates danger of drug use

Crystal methamphetamine or if called by the street name, crystal meth, is one of the fastest growing, most addictive drugs in America today. It has become one of the most commonly used drugs on the streets, including here in the Thomson-McDuffie County area, according to local authorities.

Investigator Lt. Scott Whittle of the Thomson Police Department presented a special drug awareness program, The Faces of Addiction, to local chamber of commerce members and others. The program called Drugs Don't Work was sponsored by the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce and held at the Thomson Depot.

"This drug is quite common around here," Lt. Whittle said in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror. "We see it a lot. It's widely used around this area."

Lt. Whittle, who was assisted in his presentation by Deputy Barry Whitfield of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department, said crystal meth is one of the most addictive drugs on the streets today.

"People start using it and they become hooked just that quick," said Lt. Whittle. "It's a life-altering drug."

Persons who use the illicit drug become different looking people after using it for a period of time.

"Their faces take on a totally different look and their overall personalities dramatically change, too," added Lt. Whittle. "These people don't look or act like they did before they used the drug."

Lt. Whittle shared with the group a special slide presentation depicting before-and-after photographs taken of drug suspects by law enforcement agencies around the country.

"The effects of this drug are dramatic," he pointed out. "These photographs are not staged. They are real. And these are just some of the people who have become addicted to this particular drug."

Hopefully, those pictures will leave those who attended the drug awareness program with an impression they won't soon forget, said Lt. Whittle.

"Every time I see those pictures, it leaves an impression on me," he confessed.

Locally, authorities have made dozens of arrests of suspects using or being in the possession of crystal meth through the years.

Lt. Whittle said that while many of those defendants were convicted in McDuffie County Superior Court there still is a significant problem locally with this drug.

"Some of these people try to clean up their act after they get caught," said Lt. Whittle. "Many of them, I believe, turn right back around and start back where they left off."

He said he could site repeated arrests of certain local suspects as the basis for his comment.

When it comes to crystal meth, there are numerous street names, including: jib, crank, meth, ice and crystal glass.

From a history standpoint, according to Wikipedia encyclopedia, methamphetamine first was synthesized from ephedrine in the Japan in 1893 by chemist Nagayoshi Nagai. Then in 1919, crystallized methamphetamine was synthesized by Akira Ogata by means of reduction of ephedrine using red phosphorous and iodine.

This particular drug can be abused both legally and illegally.

The drug actually has many medical uses.

Lt. Whittle said anyone with an addiction problem to this particular drug or any other drug should seek help.

"There are a lot of agencies out there willing to offer help to those addicted," he explained. "Even many employers have drug programs in place for their employees."

Such programs allow any employee that has a drug addiction to attend drug counseling and treatment centers free.

Many of the industrial plants in the Thomson area participate in drug-free work places -- something that local chamber officials encourage.

"I think that's a real good idea, because drugs are a problem for everybody," said Lt. Whittle. "Drugs can be useful in society and they can be harmful. It just depends on how they are used."

He said it is his understanding that because the drug is so highly addictive that relapses are common.

Persons who illegally use methamphetamine are flirting with a trip to jail, he said.

"The best thing to do is don't ever get started on using this kind of drug or any other drug in an illegal manner," said Deputy Whitfield, who helps educate hundreds of young students every year in McDuffie County about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.

"Drugs are a dangerous thing to be messing with, if you aren't taking them for medical purposes."

Deputy Whitfield, like Lt. Whittle, says people who need help should seek it wherever it might be offered.

"That's the best advice I could ever offer people wanting to get off drugs," added Deputy Whitfield.

Web posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009

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