Comments Off on Scars of Methamphetamine: beyond the addiction – the Reality of Meth burns

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Haunting communities across America for generations, methamphetamine maintains its position as a go-to drug for some of our country’s most chemically addicted drug users. It’s known for being extremely addictive, attacking the central nervous system and creating what some users describe as a euphoric high.

It’s not only the chemical effects on the brain that’s harming meth users. Simply making the drug is enough to take your life. The chemical mix used to make it can explode at any time, catching even the most experienced meth cookers off guard. Meth burns are just one more hazard of the drug destroying lives across West Michigan.

So-called meth labs in our own west Michigan communities don’t look like anything Walter White from AMC’s “Breaking Bad” would be caught dead in.

In fact, a modern day meth lab can consist of a plastic drinking bottle. When common products such as fertilizer and lithium strips are combined to make meth, the bottle can explode in an instant.

“If you talk to the burn centers, they know a lot of these people they are seeing are meth related incidents, but we are not getting notified of those,” Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Capt. David Boysen.

Capt. Boysen said that meth cookers will go to every extreme to hide their burns.

“I don’t know of any cases where they show up at the hospital and say,’Hey, I was cooking meth, and I got burned.’ Usually they always come up with some, ‘I was by a camp fire,’ or ‘You know, my Coleman stove blew up,” said Capt. Boysen.

“A lot of times, by the time the fire department gets there it’s a well-involved fire, and that puts a lot of people’s lives at risk,” said Capt. Boysen.

If you get burned while making meth with others, don’t count on your buddies to stick around, Capt. Boysen said.

“People that are cooking with them will just show up at the hospital, you know, kick them out at the curb and take off, so we don’t get called. So there’s a lot of this stuff that we don’t know about.”

There was another apartment fire in Portage in January of 2013. Several tenants inside one of the units were charged with operating a meth lab after the fire left about 40 people without a place to live. The unit the fire started in was completely destroyed.

Due to patient privacy laws, the captain said that law enforcement isn’t notified about suspicious burns when people show up to area burn centers.

“There are very few people that have cooked meth for any length of time that don’t have some chemical burns somewhere on their body from this process,” he said.

Keep in mind that meth burns don’t require a flame. Chemical burns are dangerous from even just a small leak in plastic drinking bottles used to make the drug. The chemicals are caustic and when mixed and come in contact with skin will cause severe burns, Boysen said.

“One of our biggest concerns with this whole meth manufacturing and the fires involved is a lot of it takes place in multifamily residences, in apartment buildings,” said Boysen.

With law enforcement continuing to tackle meth addiction, burns from the drug are now serving as another reminder of the problems plaguing our communities.

“There is a lot of this stuff that goes on that we in law enforcement don’t even know it’s happening,” said Capt. Boysen. “When we know about it is when it gets so bad that the structure catches on fire: the house catches on fire, or they get incapacitated so bad that we respond to the scene and find the victim there.”

Another danger law enforcement wants to remind you about is that if you see bottles laying around outside with what appears to be dried salt or dirt inside, stay far away, as they can still spark up a flame. Instead, call police right away for proper disposal.





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