February 5, 2007
Narcotics agents say a dangerous drug is becoming more popular where you live.
That drug is crystal meth.
Officers busted up more than 200 meth labs in Georgia and South Carolina in the past year.
That includes one last Thursday. Travis lever is in jail after investigators found a meth lab at the Econo Lodge on Belair Road.
News 12's Stephanie Baker talked to people who know firsthand how the lure of meth can destroy lives.
Investigators say I-20 is a direct link, bringing meth from Mexico into one of the nation's biggest meth cities: Atlanta. From there, it's coming straight to Augusta.
Investigators say this problem is turning up everywhere, from the streets to the nicest neighborhoods.
And crystal meth doesn't discriminate based on money, race, or gender.
A former drug user says once addiction spreads, it consumes everything in its path. Federal privacy laws protect her identity and the details of her case.
"Life was all about the drugs, all about the drugs," she told News 12. "From the time I got up to when and if I went to bed. It was all about the drugs."
She says it was a downward spiral, from a life at home with family to a life of prostitution and abuse on the streets.
But drugs aren't confined to the streets anymore.
Just last month, crystal meth turned up right down the street from Debbie Dillon.
"When they said what it was, that was the furthest thing from my mind, that there would be a meth lab in my neighborhood," she said.
Investigators found meth in 37-year-old Jamie Brosious' home in a neighborhood where houses start at several hundred thousand dollars.
They say most other addictions tend to affect men in low-income areas.
"You can't nail it down to one type of person or individual or race or economic class," an undercover narcotics investigator told News 12.
He says the one factor that makes meth stand out is its ties to white collar crime. He finds most other users resort to robbery or burglary to get drug money.
"You'll see street corner sales with that," he said. :"You can't drive up to the street corner and buy methamphetamine."
He says that's because people are making it themselves.
In some cases, their customers are professional men and women and homemakers using the drug to get more energy.
Paula Owens with Bradford Health Services, a regional drug abuse center, says crystal meth users can stay up for days at a time.
"If you get to what the real background, what made them start in the first place, that's what helps them stop, because that's what's triggering them to use in the first place," she said.
Often it's to help them deal with stress in their lives. Meth releases a feel-good chemical in the brain called dopamine, which can temporarily mask the person's problem.
But the former drug user cautions everyone that no matter how big the problem may seem, that's nothing compared to what the addiction will do.
"It was so rough out there living the lifestyle I was living," she said. "I always thought I would die using. But I just thank God He had grace and mercy on me...and I'm here!"
She made it through rehab, and she's now married with a steady job. But it's a different story for a growing number of accused meth-makers in Georgia and South Carolina, and for the wide array of communities where they're doing business.
"You think 'Oh, we're safe. Nothing bad ever happens on my little cul-de-sac," Debbie said. "But that's not true. That's the scary part."
The US Drug Enforcement Administration reports an increasing number of labs found in neighborhoods like Debbie's last year: 219 in all. Local authorities say reports in this area are up, and they expect it to get worse since the amount coming from Atlanta is on the rise.
Doctors say meth is one of the most addictive street drugs.
It's made up of a dangerous mix of chemicals, like acetone and drain cleaner.
And once the high wears off, it depletes the brain's dopamine, causing the user to feel depressed and paranoid.
You can see the horrors of the drug just by looking at mug shots of Wayne Scott Fernandez, recently arrested on meth charges.
The first was taken back in 2000. Compare that to the one taken this January.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with drug addiction, call Narcotics Anonymous at 706-855-2419.