November 30th is National Meth Awareness Day. Detective John Higgins of the Kennett Police Department was willing to take the time to talk a little about his experience in combatting the drug problem in the Bootheel.
According to Higgins, methamphetamine is the second largest problem in this region. ” For ninety percent of people that have a true meth addiction, it is a life wrecker. They put everything they hold near and dear on the back burner to get the fix.”
One of the saddest stories that he has encountered during his nearly 20 years career as an investigator is the story of a young woman in Randolph County that was involved in a car accident. “She had three young children in the car with her. After the accident she was found walking several miles down the road and had several ounces of methamphetamine on her. She had left her children in the car. When people say that nothing can break the bond between mother and child, meth is the one drug that can,” explained Higgins. “I use this story a lot when I go an talk to schools.”
In his experience, Higgins says that he has never once seen anyone just selling the drug to make money; they are trying to support a drug habit.
There is hope for those that have an addiction to the drug although it is so highly addictive that one use can oftentimes lead to a downward spiral.
“If the person wants help, that is the first step,” said Higgins. “Although it is rare to see someone to seek help on his or her own. They usually have to hit rock bottom before they receive help. At that point it is usually court ordered, and the person oftentimes does not want help, they are just going through the motions.”
He said that he has seen dozens of death that are in some way related to the use of the drug whether it be a car accident, homicide, or drug overdose.
There has been a change in the demographics on who uses what drugs. Now cocaine in any form is nearly obsolete and the current issue they are facing is a problem with Mexican ice that Hispanics are bringing in from Old Mexico.
Southeast Missouri took a major hit when the funding was cut for the Bootheel Drug Task Force. Some of that reason was because due to the fact that legislation took stringent measures and passed laws that made it more difficult for meth cooks to purchase ingredients they used to make meth. It was called the Nazi method and included such ingredients as cold pills containing the ingredient pseudoephedrine and anhydrous ammonia, which is a chemical used by farmers. Laws limiting the amount of certain cold medications were passed and co-ops began putting ingredients in the anhydrous ammonia that made it impossible to be used for making meth. These clandestine labs are now nearly obsolete and meth cooks now use a shake and bake method.
Without the Bootheel task force, investigators continue to fight the war on drugs, but with limited resources.
“The task force enabled us to follow a case wherever it went. We followed cases to Houston, Chicago, and Atlanta. We were allowed the leeway to continue the investigation as needed. It was a huge loss that funding was cut so drastically.”
There is some light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes there are success stories involving people who were deeply entrenched in that sort of lifestyle. “I attend church with an individual who was about as deeply entrenched in the life as deeply as anyone could be. He is an awesome person. He said that he was not only using, but making and transporting. One day when he was transporting the drug, the Hwy patrol got after him. In that moment he literally saw the grim reaper after him and knew that he would either die from using the drug, or get shot by the police while transporting. He changed his life completely after that experience,”said Higgins.
No matter what the laws are and in spite of the fact that they lost the valuable resource of the Bootheel Task Force, Higgins made this simple, yet powerful statement. ” We will continue to fight the war on drugs with what resources that we have.”