Not only is the drug relatively cheap, a gram costing around $100, but homemade versions of the drug often called bathtub crank can be made using easily accessible chemicals.
A decrease in internationally produced methamphetamine has given rise to a wave of homemade meth. However, local police crackdowns have forced meth labs to go on the move.
Were trying to combat it before it gets to the meth lab stage, said Cmdr. Joey Jacobs of the Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force, which busted 13 meth labs last year in Floyd County.
Mobile meth labs, often in the trunks of cars or even a backpack, are a way for the drugs cookers to avoid detection and are increasing in number.
The manufacture of meth, involving a number of dangerous chemicals, results in byproducts that can even be harmful to future residents of a former meth house.
Cleanup usually means razing a house, Jacobs said. It seeps into the drywall and the waste contaminates the soil and the groundwater.
He added that meth house cleanups, generally funded federally, easily cost millions of dollars but the bill for man hours and groundwork, including technicians and investigators, is still footed by local taxpayers.
What is meth?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the drug popularly called meth is a catchall word to cover a category of stimulants that causes the release of extremely high levels of a brain chemical called dopamine that regulates motivation, pleasure sensation and motor function.
The crystalline powder can be snorted, smoked, injected or ingested. Initial users experience a prolonged, intense high.
Users often exhibit jerky movements with jaw clenching and the inability to stand still. Long term effects of the drug include paranoia, irritability, tooth loss, hair loss and weight loss.
Homemade meth is produced using a simple chemical process. Jacobs said a meth house exudes a toxic smell unlike any other.
That also makes it dangerous for (the police) because when we enter these places we dont know what were ingesting or breathing or even the long term affects of it, said Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiflett who also is a member of Floyd Against Drugs.
The cost to taxpayers
A study released earlier this week, titled The Economic Cost of Methamphetamine Use in the United States, suggests that meth use could cost Georgians $1.3 billion and U.S. taxpayers $23.4 billion annually.
The study found that meth abuse imposes a significant burden on both individuals and society in money spent on treatment, healthcare, and foster care services as well as the costs of crime and lost productivity associated with the drug.
Jacobs and District Attorney Leigh Patterson estimated that the local cost of the drugs ravages is likely in the millions of dollars.
In 2007, 32 percent of federal drug offenses in Georgia involved methamphetamine, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and over the past five years meth has been the fastest growing drug problem in many areas of Northern Georgia.
Methamphetamine is crippling our state, said Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker. We spend millions each year on meth-related incarcerations alone, and yet the number of addicts in Georgia continues to grow rapidly.
The cost to families
In Georgia, over half of the people entering drug treatment for meth are between the ages of 12 and 25.
Georgia is also third in the nation in total number of meth users between the ages of 12 and 17, according to the Department of Health.
A lot of people think that methamphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy are adult drugs and thats not the truth, said Cpl. John Blalock of the Floyd County Sheriffs Department. A lot of drugs we see in the high schools now are the harder drugs.
Meth is particularly dangerous because of the effect it has on families, Shiflett added. One addict that just cant kick the habit can often ravage a family and their finances and a family can spend a small fortune for treatment with an even smaller chance of success.
Unfortunately we see a lot of return on repeat customers, Jacobs said. They just cant kick the drug.
Prevention and protection
Community help is the heart of stopping the meth problem, Jacobs said, and is often what gets an investigation going and meth labs shut down.
Some signs of a meth operation are individuals purchasing unusual quantities of items such as sinus medication containing pseudoephedrine, starter fluid, ether and lye some of the ingredients used in cooking the drug.
Getting educated is another part of combating the problem.
The Floyd County Sheriffs Office offers a number of drug awareness classes for area schools and businesses on how the drug, even apart from the addictive and poisonous qualities, can harm a person and their future.
(Meth possession) is a felony and its going to stay with you for the rest of your life, said Blalock who taught 32 classes last year. He said the FCSO also offers drug awareness seminar training for the employees of local businesses.
To report a suspected meth operation or dealers, community members can call 911 or the Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force, 24 hours a day at 706-238-5160.
Concerned citizens can also anonymously report crimes online at www.romega.us or by calling 706-236-5000.
Click here to see a study about the meth epidemic.