On average, five to ten meth-related arrests take place each week in Walker County.

“It’s really supply and demand. Meth is easy to access and this drug is everywhere,” said Patrick Doyle, commander of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Drug Task Force, which serves Walker, Catoosa, Chattooga and Dade counties.

Three years ago meth sold for about $1,500 an ounce. Today it sells for $250, Doyle said.

Understanding meth

In convenience stores everywhere, people have begun to find their IDs being checked when they purchase cold medicine such as Sudafed, and many are questioning why.

Perhaps the answer can be found at the bottom of a glass pipe. Meth-amphetamine, sometimes shortened simply to “meth,” is commonly manufactured in illegal and hidden laboratories, made by mixing var-ious types of amphetamine with other chemicals that potentiate it.

Common cold medicines are often used as the basis to produce this drug. Those cooking the meth often extract ingredients from these medicines and combine the substance with other ingredients like battery acid, drain cleaner, and antifreeze.

The dangerous chemicals used in meth production are potentially ex-plosive, which can result in the explosion of meth labs. And because most people cooking meth are users themselves, more often than not they end up with chemical burns, or worse, injuries due to explosion of the “product.”

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II substance and comes in several forms, with several street names. One type of street meth, known com-monly as “crank,” can come in chunks or powder. It is often white or yel-low in color and can be sold loose or in capsules. The prescription ver-sion, Desoxyn (generic name: methamphetamine hydrochloride), is still legal by prescription and comes in tablets. The most popular form of this drug, however, is crystal meth, commonly known as “ice.” It has a clear and crystalline appearance, not unlike shattered glass or frozen water.

If one pays attention to crimes in Walker County, it is evident that the vast majority of arrests regarding drug possession are in relation to meth. This could be due, in part, to the fact that the drug is easy to make and distribute. Heroin is significantly more expensive, and narcotics are more difficult to come by, especially in the pill form.

Long-term use of methamphetamine can cause long-term effects such as permanent damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain. This can lead to heart attack and stroke. If snorted, it can lead to the destruction of nasal tissues. It can also cause respiratory issues if it is smoked. The drug itself causes severe tooth decay, malnutrition and severe weight loss, psychosis, disorientation, seizures, and oftentimes damage to the brain that is similar to patterns of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and epi-lepsy.

Two common questions

“How do I know if my loved one is using?”

Typically, methamphetamine elicits very strong and intense short-term effects. This includes erratic or bizarre behavior, picking at one’s skin, loss of appetite, pupil dilation, violence, hallucinations and hyper-excitability, as well as a disturbed sleep pattern and psychosis. Behavior changes are extremely noticeable.

“Someone I know is using methamphetamine. What do I do now?”

If someone you know is using meth or any other illegal substance, you can leave an anonymous tip with the Walker County Sheriff’s Depart-ment on their website at walkerso.com.