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Combating drugs requires full spectrum of solutions
ARLINGTON The messages of the May 14 Community Drug Information Night were clear. Information and intervention are key, especially when dealing with young people.
"The problem of drugs in our community is not one for just police, or schools, or parents to solve," said Arlington Police Chief John Gray. "It's a problem for all of us together, and we need the full spectrum of solutions, from enforcement to treatment."
"I'm not here to scare you, but to inform you," said Detective David Chitwood, of the Snohomish County Regional Drug Task Force, to the parents and other community members at the Linda Byrnes Performing Arts Center. "I'm still learning about this, even though I read up on it all the time, because there are always new drugs out there."
Gray linked Arlington's high amount of property crime to illegal drug use, while Chitwood alternated between showing videos and answering questions, starting with methamphetamines.
"Meth creates a mental addiction," Chitwood said. "It raises your dopamine levels, which increases your likelihood of paranoia and delusions. It can make you schizophrenic. It attacks your central nervous system."
Pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold pills, is needed to make meth. Chitwood explained that this is why Snohomish County now regulates the sale of cold pills containing pseudoephedrine.
"In the year to date, we've had no active labs in Snohomish County," Chitwood said. "We're still finding dump sites for meth cookers, though."
Chitwood estimated that, for each small plastic bag of meth that is produced, five pounds of dangerous waste are also produced.
Chitwood noted that meth can be snorted, smoked, ingested or injected, and listed the ways it does damage to its users. In addition to nerve damage, meth causes tooth decay by drying up bacteria-cleaning saliva, malnutrition by suppressing the appetite, and the easier scabbing and breaking of skin.
Chitwood drew noises of discomfort and disgust from the younger members of the audience when he showed "The Faces of Meth," a series of before-and-after photos of people who had used meth for a number of years. He reported that one woman, who had been photographed once every year for 10 years, had died the 11th year.
"It aged her 40 years," Chitwood said. "When you use meth, your hair doesn't grow out right, and your gums are eaten away. Usage is still up in this area, because I-5, the waterways and the railways make it a hub."
Moving on to the subject of inhalants, Chitwood warned that "huffing" just once can cause death, and that the inhalants used can include adhesives, aerosols, solvents, cleaning agents, gases and anesthetics.
"It's a cheap high," Chitwood said. "But you can die of a heart attack your first time."
Chitwood then addressed Oxycontin, a drug he described as increasing in high school usage over the course of the past decade. In powdered form, it can be smoked on foil, and Chitwood recommended parents exercise vigilance with their prescriptions.
"Lock up your medicine cabinet and keep count of your pills," Chitwood said. "There are addicts who 'shop for doctors,' getting five different doctors to issue them five different prescriptions. Cancer patients even have their medications stolen by family members."
Chitwood advised young people not to accept opened drinks at parties, to avoid being dosed with drugs without their knowledge. He also encouraged parents not to allow their children to attend parties where they even suspect drug use might be happening. He recommended that both parents and young people research illegal drugs online, to learn what they look like and how harmful they can be.
"Parents should establish unified rules between them, so that families can trust each other," Chitwood said. "That way, you can know where it's safe to allow your kids to go."
Chitwood debunked rumors of candy and pain pills being spiked with meth, but urged everyone to "really look at pills before you take them." He added that marijuana "does just as much damage as meth," after Gray ranked marijuana as the second most-used drug in Arlington, behind alcohol.