The Herald Times  

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By Christy Mullins

Indiana State Police in the Bloomington district have busted 25 methamphetamine labs since Jan. 1, and more than half were found cooking in Monroe County.

Troopers last week found three home meth labs in Bloomington — one Monday, one Wednesday and another Thursday — and arrested seven adults on various drug-related charges.

They found small children at two of the houses, within reach of stripped lithium batteries, ammonium nitrate and other toxic chemicals used in the makeshift labs that police find, on average, about once every other day in the Bloomington district.

The Bloomington district of the state police also includes Greene, Brown, Owen, Lawrence and Morgan counties.

Its three-member Meth Task Force seized 110 meth labs last year district wide and is off to a busy start in 2012, trooper Josh Allen said.

Allen said the task force has destroyed 15 labs in the Lindsey Hayes Trailer Court in the past year, in more than half of the court’s 25 trailers.

Troopers seized three labs in three hours on Oard Road earlier this year, and they suspect a handful of trailer fires in the county have started because of meth lab explosions.

According to state police numbers, Monroe is the sixth-leading county for meth lab discoveries in Indiana.

“It is a populated area with more people to commit crimes,” Allen said. “Also, people can go to a store and buy the chemicals without the suspicion (that is raised) in smaller communities, where a cashier may notice the same person coming in to buy sodium hydroxide four times a week.”

Most local meth labs aren’t for profit, Allen said. The lab exists only to supply the user’s addiction, and any money made off selling the drug goes back into supplies for the next batch.

The Indiana Prevention Resource Center, based in Bloomington, reports that the primary motivation for homemade methamphetamine labs is to support personal addiction, rather than to create a product for sales.

Meth users “oftentimes will not have money for electricity or water,” Allen said, “because they spend all of their money on the cook process.”

Allen said other crimes are often directly associated with methamphetamine abuse, including domestic violence, theft, burglary, child abuse and neglect, child molestation and homicide.

And then there are the children who live inside the homes where their parents cook and use meth every day.

Two children, ages 1 and 3, were found at last week’s meth lab busts in Bloomington.

Child Protective Services handled custody matters in those cases, and their parents face charges of neglecting a dependent.

“I have pulled loaded needles from under the mattresses on baby cribs,” Allen said. “I have watched an 8-month pregnant woman try to eat 3 grams of meth. I have had 8-year-old children thank me for arresting their parents.”

A ‘downward spiral’

Dr. James Mowry, director of the Indiana Poison Control Center in Indianapolis, said the effects of methamphetamine include euphoria and an overall “feeling of well-being.”

Users can stay awake for days, sometimes weeks, on the drug, and often pair it with heroin to come off the high in what trooper Allen described as an “atrocious downward spiral.”

But Mowry said the poison center hasn’t received many calls from meth users.

“The only time we hear about somebody is if they had a bad experience with it,” he said.

“(Police) are busting a lot of labs, but it’s not something we hear a lot about. The people who just use meth and go along their merry way, we don’t hear from them.”

Andrew Notebaert, a medical science professor at Indiana University, said people who use meth often forget about basic things, such as dental hygiene and nutrition, which can also have adverse effects on bone density.

Meth can shut down the salivary glands, which help protect teeth by lubricating the mouth and keeping it clean, Notebaert said.

And he said meth can damage the enamel of the teeth, continuing to work against them long after a user has stopped using the drug.

But the majority of users don’t try meth just once, trooper Allen said.

“I have personally spoken to people who used the drug one time, got addicted, and plainly admit they never wanted this life, or this drug to be part of their life. But after using it just one time they ‘had to have it again’ and felt like ‘they couldn’t live without it.'”