Groups address community meth problem
WATKINS GLEN--More than 40 people attended a forum on methamphetamine use in the community Monday night, Oct. 26 at the Watkins Glen elementary auditorium. The event was sponsored by the Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCUDD) and featured speakers from several community organizations. Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman, Finger Lakes Addictions Counseling and Referral Agency (FLACRA) Clinic Manager Danielle Tilden and Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner JoAnn Fratarcangelo all spoke on the different effects meth and other drugs can have on a person and what warning signs family members can watch out for.
Tilden said some of the warning signs for meth use include sores, twitching, bloodshot eyes or larger pupils than normal. She noted some people who are using drugs may try to hide intravenous (IV) marks in groin area or between toes. Tilden added these IV marks can often become infected, which can be a red flag for those who suspect a person is using drugs.
Tilden stated there will be some behavioral signs as well, which may include social isolation, an unexplained need for more money, increased violent tendencies or staying up for days. She said this has to do with way meth impacts the brain, adding a person may not have the patience they had for different things in the past. Tilden noted people who are on meth will sometimes get an extra burst of strength when they become violent, and a person can break their own bones with sheer force in some cases.
Some of the psychological signs of drug use Tilden pointed out include an unexplained change in personality or attitude, sudden mood changes, lack of motivation or paranoia. She said some addicts will will spend hours peeking out their window blinds to make sure no one is out there. Tilden added some environmental indications of drug use include tinfoil crumpled up or with burn marks, cut straws, empty plastic pen cases, small plastic bags, water pipe, rolled up dollar bills, razor blades and credit cards wih residues, syringes or syringe caps.
She said some of the effects of meth use include homelessness, physical abuse to a spouse or children, paranoia and toxic psychosis, adding it can be hard for a user to tell what is real and not after a certain point. Tilden noted it can involve functional changes in the brain or brain damage.
"Meth works by releasing a whole ton of dopamine into your system, and you don't have a lot left when you crash," Tilden said.
As far as treatment goes, Tilden said crisis centers can often address an immediate need, while seven to 28 day for inpatient treatment is also an option for rehabilitation. Outpatient options include multiple group therapy sessions per week with individual therapy sessions, while some areas have community residence or supportive living houses. Finally, Tilden said family support can be beneficial to long-term success in recovery.
Fratarcangelo spoke about dealing with families in the county when there is an addiction involved, noting if a case is significant enough, DSS will end up going to court to see if there is abuse or neglect happening in a family. She said they have had children who were born to someone taking meth, adding the county would then go in and would ask the judge if the child is positive for meth upon birth that the child does not go home with the parent. Fratarcangelo said the child will go through withdrawals, adding there can also be dangers in a parent's home for a child if they are cooking meth.
Fratarcangelo said the county will try to work with a parent to return the child and would like them to go into some sort of treatment program where they will be screened and tested for drug use. If a parent is testing clean and doing everything that is required of them, she said the ultimate goal is to return children to their parent. Unfortunately, Fratarcangelo said in her time in her position she has seen many drug addicted parents who are just not able to get their child back, adding mandates from federal government state if there is no progress in a year, DSS needs to start working on terminating parental rights.