Faces of meth: Ravages of methamphetamine on the body - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Faces of meth: Ravages of methamphetamine on the body

(Columbia) May 12, 2005 - Lexington-Richland Alcohol and Drug Abuse director Jack Claypoole says in just a few years, the damage of methamphetamine addiction is written all over their faces, "These people are sick. They have a lot of health problems. Everything from it impacts their teeth, causes their teeth to fall out, they have dental problems. They have a lot of blood pressure and circulatory problems."

Sam Gunter with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department has been on several meth busts, "They get what we call meth bugs. Which I guess according them, makes them feel like bugs are crawling under their skin. And they will literally sit there and scratch themselves down to the bone."

George "Buddy" Tindal in 1996 was busted for disorderly conduct, an open container, and driving without a license. Six years later, when authorities accused him of running one of the biggest methamphetamine operations in South Carolina, Tindal had sunken eyes and generally was a portrait of poor health.

Lexington County agents found Tindal living in a treehouse when they finally tracked him down. Gunter says it wasn't just the hard lifestyle that shows up in Tindal's mug shot: it's the meth, "Dread, just pure despair. Like I said, when you first look at them, you can't even see the pupil in their eyes, it's constricted so."

Claypoole says meth addicts are living on overdrive, "They are incredibly paranoid. They're distrustful of everyone and everything. They're very hyperactive. The analogy we use with folks we're talking about is if you took your automobile, started the engine, put a brick on the accelerator and let your engine run on full RPM for the next eight hours, that's what methamphetamine does to your body."

Meth and meth use is still a relatively new phenomenon in South Carolina. Claypoole says when authorities book suspects into places like the Lexington County jail, they don't always see the long-term effects of meth addiction, "Last year out of the nearly 5,000 clients we treated, only 25 clients had a primary diagnosis of addiction to methamphetamines."

Meth can leave its mark on faces in other ways. On the run with what authorities said was a working lab in his car, Calvin Ray Casson plowed into a fence near Columbia Metro Airport. His face was battered in the crash.

Claypoole says the hollow stares, the horror shows, are only one indication of the urgency for early intervention, "Most of them have literally hit the wall. Part of our goal is when we see someone who's using alcohol or other drugs, regardless of the drug is to try to get them early enough in that disease process that they have not done irreversible damage to their bodies. Part of the challenge with methamphetamine is it makes the users so paranoid and they're so addicted, over 90 percent of first-time users become addicted to methamphetamine. It's an incredibly addictive drug."

Experts say the drug will ravage more families, more communities and many more faces if South Carolina can't stop meth from becoming the epidemic it is in some states.

By Jack Kuenzie
Posted 11:22pm by BrettWitt

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