The scourge of meth

Saturday, May 8, 2004

Law enforcement in Missouri is waging a high-profile war on methamphetamine that makes headlines every time a meth lab is busted.

But meth is a scourge that cannot be countered with arrests and prison sentences alone. Educating people about the poisonous toll taken by methamphetamine is critical to getting use and manufacture of the drug under control. And it may be impossible to start the education too soon.

Two Southeast Missouri State University professors have developed a program to help educate young children about meth.

Called Meth Education for Elementary Schools, it originally was aimed at Cape Girardeau and Kansas City students age 16 and up. They adapted the program for younger students with the help of grants from Midwest High Intensity Drug Traffic Areas, the Missouri Department of Public Safety and the university.

Dr. John Wade and Linda Keena, both members of the faculty in the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology at the university, customized the program to help third- and fourth-grade teachers educate their students about the dangers of methamphetamine.

Southeast Missouri is a hotbed of meth activity. It is reassuring that our university is trying to do something to stop it.

Gov. Bob Holden appointed both Wade and Keena to the Missouri Methamphetamine Task Force. They presented a paper about their work during the recent governor's summit on methamphetamine in Kansas City.

Meth stimulates the central nervous system to produce levels of neurotoxins the brain cannot deal with. Use can lead to psychosis and deadly strokes.

Long-term effects include respiratory problems, extreme anorexia, tooth loss and cardiovascular collapse.

In addition, cleaning up meth labs is dangerous and expensive.

The social and financial costs caused by methamphetamine are almost incalculable. The state task force recognizes that, along with vigilance by law enforcement, entire communities must be educated if meth ultimately is to be rejected as the poison it is.

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