SHERIDAN — Methamphetamine use tends to ebb and flow as other drugs enter a region, but overall use of meth in the United States has declined the past 10 years.
But meth still casts a wide net. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 1.2 million Americans reported using methamphetamine in the past year, and 440,000 recounted using it in the past month.
In Wyoming, meth-related arrests doubled from 2012-2014. In 2014, nearly 5 percent of all arrests involved meth, according to a Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police report. In 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency dealt with nine clandestine meth operations in Wyoming, including labs, dumpsites and chemicals.
Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that floods the body with dopamine, essentially causing an adrenaline high. It can be smoked, snorted, injected intravenously or swallowed.
Sheridan Police Department Cpl. Kelly Waugh is a nationally certified drug recognition expert instructor who helps train fellow officers in the more advanced aspects of identifying individuals on drugs.
Waugh said short-term effects from meth include rigid movements, uncontrollable talking, grinding of teeth, muscle tremors and, because of the unpredictability of the drug’s chemical makeup, numerous other possibilities. Long term, police look for sores from itching and scratching, extreme weight loss and sleep deprivation.
After time, the body loses its natural sense of homeostasis, or chemical balance, and stops producing dopamine naturally, according to Waugh.
He called the health effects of meth “devastating.” The drug is so addictive that only 2.7 percent of meth users ever fully recover, meaning they never use meth again and recapture full bodily function.
“I travel and teach a lot,” he said. “I’ve said it 100 times, and I’ll say it again. I truly believe … methamphetamine is, if you will, an antichrist.”
Waugh pointed out that, because of a meth addiction, people often lose everything: family, relationships, money, health. And meth use is not relegated to the poor or downtrodden.
“I’ve seen it used anywhere from juvenile males and females from poor homes to prominent homes to college athletes,” he said. “I’ve dealt with bankers, lawyers. I’ve dealt with people that are extremely successful business owners to oil rig workers.”
“No one is more prone to use meth than anybody else,” he added.