Letters From the Issue of Thursday, November 17, 2005

Meth and the City

An out-of-reach problem?: I just finished reading the excellent articles on the methamphetamine problem in Phoenix ("The Perfect Drug," Joe Watson, Robert Nelson and Paul Rubin, November 3). Thank you so much, New Times, for once again being honest with the public.

The drug problem is so out of reach now that it seems as though there is no hope.

I know many who have been brought down by meth. Why is it that the media as a whole do not address the drug problem in our state? Occasionally, we will hear tidbits of information about a drug bust or an addict who commits a crime. However, it is more of an out-of-sight/out-of-mind attitude. The majority of people around here think that as long as they don't hear about it, it's not their problem.

What they don't realize is that methamphetamine addiction affects us all. It could be your child, your child's bus driver, your postal carrier, your boss, or anyone, for that matter.

Until our country actually sees illegal drugs as they really are, there is no hope. That's why I thank you again for being so open and honest -- whether the public wants to hear it or not. It's great that somebody's paying attention, and for that reason I will continue to be a New Times fan.
Tianne Pitz, Apache Junction

Media culpa: Meth has become the scourge of our society. Yet all you hear about on TV news and in daily newspapers, such as the Arizona Republic, is crack cocaine. Even the almost anachronistic drug, heroin, gets more air time and column space.

Sure, TV news and newspapers mention it when the cops bust a meth dealer, or a meth lab blows up. All this is pretty much in the vein of making publicity whores like Sheriff Joe Arpaio look like they're solving the meth problem, which (if you believe TV and the Republic) is confined to a few rednecks and Mexican gang members. From the looks of it, the media, particularly the Republic and its broadcast clone, Channel 12, are in bed with local law enforcement to masquerade that there's really no meth problem, and that what little there is is being taken care of by big, bad cops like Sheriff Joke.

Paul Rubin's story on the "deaths by meth" was riveting proof of what a huge problem this drug is, and how it could affect every one of us. Some meth head could just bump into you at the state fair, get pissed and blow you away for nothing. Look at that psychotic-because-of-meth kid who blew away Phoenix police officer David Uribe. That kid never would have even conceived of such a thing if he hadn't been psychotic on this horrible drug.

Meth is truly the worst drug problem we've faced, and it has been treated as just something a bunch of Hells Angels and trailer-trash hillbillies use. And if we don't hang with such people, then we have nothing to worry about. What bullshit!

Thanks for informing the politicians who run this county that meth -- the vast majority of which is coming in from Mexico (duh!) -- is a bigger problem than ever. And for telling the politicians that the cops they employ definitely don't have a handle on things.
Thomas Aikens, via the Internet

Meth schizophrenia: I'd like to congratulate you on your great articles on methamphetamine. There is one aspect of the drug that you didn't cover, which is the effects of meth on the mental-health system here in Maricopa County.

I work for one of the mobile crisis companies contracted and dispatched by ValueOptions. We help people deal with mental-health crises anywhere in the county 24/7. This service is free to anyone in Maricopa County. Our calls range from people feeling suicidal to domestic-violence situations to parent-child problems to a homeless person wanting a blanket to someone simply "acting bizarre."

Over the past couple years, there has been a huge increase in our overall volume of calls -- specifically, calls where the client has recently used meth. I would estimate that in about 50 percent of the calls, meth is involved.

Meth will cause paranoia, aggression and psychosis, which are all reasons that people call us. This situation could be called "schizophrenia in a pipe," because it is almost impossible to tell the difference between someone on a five-day meth binge and a long-term paranoid schizophrenic off his medication.

Meth is overwhelming our already underfunded, beleaguered and complicated mental-health system, with little hope in sight.
Name withheld by request

A negative impact: Great articles on meth! As the director of Safe Schools and Alternative Education for the Pendergast School District, I've been hearing the names Bear and Psycho for a long time. [They are the murder suspects and meth users mentioned in Paul Rubin's part of the New Times meth series, whom Phoenix Police Department Detective Alex Femenia refers to as running the "Ortega Crime Academy."]

The negative impact that these men have had on our young students is astounding. The Ortegas' involvement with gang activity cannot necessarily be separated from the meth epidemic facing this west Phoenix neighborhood around North 87th Avenue.
Amy Perhamus, Phoenix

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