Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce members had the opportunity to learn about local drug trends during the chamber's latest quarterly luncheon. Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force Agent John Luckey served as the guest speaker at the event.
"When I retired from the Marine Corps, I had never heard of crank," said Luckey, who serves as the officer in charge of the task force. "Seventeen years later, I know that it is the number one topic that affects this county.
"Nothing affect someone like meth does," said Luckey. "I have never seen anything as poisonous and dangerous as meth."
After retiring from the Marine Corps, Luckey retired to Carthage. He had the opportunity to complete training through the Missouri Highway Patrol and became the first person in Jasper County authorized to clean up meth labs. To date, Luckey has cleaned up around 800 meth labs.
"This area is very inundated with meth labs," said Luckey. "You might wonder why people use meth. It a stimulant with a strong psychological addiction. The first high is the best high, and the user just keeps chasing that high."
Methamphetamine impacts the user's adrenalin and the dopamine in the brain, said Luckey. Users are often willing to give up everything in their lives for meth.
"I have seen successful people reduced to nothing because of this drug," said Luckey. "They give everything to the drug. They begin stealing, organizing groups to steal or making the drug."
Luckey said he has heard many users say they began using meth because they were dating a user.
"When I ask a user, 'Are you addicted?' I hear everything from 'I can take it or leave it anytime I want' to 'when I first put it in my body I knew the devil had me.'"
According to Luckey, 97 percent of meth users will use the drug again.
The Barry County Drug Court is making positive strides in fighting meth use, said Luckey. The program provides addicts with a body of peers to reassure them during their struggles.
"Prior to the drug court, I wasn't seeing much progress," said Luckey. "I'm been impressed with what I have seen. The court system is overwhelmed, and this is a viable option for users."
Luckey said the program specifically helps older addicts who are ready to make a change in their lives.
Last year, the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force worked 250 cases, made 101 drug arrests and 22 non-drug arrests and busted 100 labs.
"That is just the tip of the iceberg," said Luckey. "We know there is so much more out there. The problem is not having the supply. The problem is the demand. As long as the high demand is there, they will keep coming up with easier, quicker ways to make the drug."
The task force has already made 18 arrests and busted 11 labs this year, including a rolling lab that was busted this month.
"As of October of 2008, the shake and bake method has made life harder for the task force because it makes meth easier to make," said Luckey. "Even if pharmacies stop selling Sudafed, they will traffic it in."
Luckey presented the elements of a shake and bake lab, which fit in a common backpack. Some of the ingredients contained in the drug process include lye, fertilizer and lithium batteries. Around $500 worth of the drug can be made in one to one and a half hours.
Luckey also offered information on some of the newest drug trends in southwest Missouri, including prescription drug abuse and the use of incense and bath salts as synthetic drugs.
"I have seen really good kids use these," said Luckey. "It is labeled not for human consumption, but they are still smoking it."
Luckey encouraged those in attendance to guard their medicine cabinets and dispose of outdated prescription medications. A take back event will be held in Cassville in April.
Around 44 people attended the quarterly luncheon. The meal was catered by Papa Vito's.