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Paynesville Press - November 3, 2004

Seminar teaches parents to spot signs, symptoms of drugs

By Michael Jacobson

Nearly two dozen parents and community members attended a drug seminar, led by Sergeant David McLaughlin of the Stearns County Sheriff's Department, on Monday, Oct. 25. McLaughlin, who has worked with the county's drug task force for 15 years, presented a 75-minute slideshow describing common drugs and signs of drug use.

Nearly 95 percent of their cases now, said McLaughlin, involve methamphetamine. Fifteen years ago, he said, they would see meth twice a year.

Also known as crank, rice, crystal, speed, and fluff, meth is made in huge labs in Mexico and small labs, often mobile labs, locally. It is very common in small towns and rural areas, he said.

A stimulant, meth increases awareness, gives users high energy, causes paranoia, feelings of power, mental confusion, and hallucinations, and leads to weight loss.

Meth comes in bricks, or smaller chunks. Clean meth looks white, but if it includes dirt it can be have color.

Meth labs are hazardous, potentially explosive, flammable, and corrosive, and with toxic fumes. If you suspect a meth lab, don't touch it, said McLaughlin. Just call the sheriff's department to report it.

Meth labs have strong chemical smell, lots of glass tubing, propane, and battery. They are treated as hazardous waste sites, with proper disposal including rubber gloves, face masks, protective suits, and breathing apparatus.

Labs may also have booby traps, said McLaughlin, who has seen booby traps at sites in the Paynesville area.

Making meth involves cooking ephedrine to remove the active ingredient. The recipe, unfortunately, is easy to get, said McLaughlin, on the Internet, for instance.

Another popular drug continues to be marijuana. Signs of marijuana use are blood-shot eyes, lack of coordination, strong pungent odor, light green or white coating on tongue, and blister on lips or tongues from smoking to the ash.

While marijuana is frequently imported to the United States, it is also can be grown indoors, in pole barns, and in farm fields. They rely on tips to find growing marijuana plants, said McLauglin, like from a landowner near Paynesville who called the drug task force when kids kept coming to his field. There was marijuana growing in it.

All tips to the drug task force are anonymous, stressed McLaughlin. Call even if you are just suspicious, he said, and they will check it out and determine if it involves drugs or is illegal activity.

Other drugs that are used include cocaine, crack, ecstasy, ketamine, LSD, mushrooms, and ritalin.

Common drug tools, according to McLaughlin, are pipes for smoking marijuana, glass pipes for methamphetamine, spoons for cooking heroine or meth, and postage scales for weighing drug amounts.

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