Teen survives tragedy of meth

Monday, January 31, 2005
Rep. John Boozman listened as a high school senior related her life, which led from methamphetamine to a family's destruction. CCN /Anna Mathews

One teen's tale of survival, surrounded by suicide and meth, gave Rep. John Boozman a glimpse into the problems facing many families today.

Meg, (not her real name), met with Boozman face-to-face at the Merlin Foundation's children's advocacy center, known as Grandma's House in Green Forest,. when he was in town to hear from his constituents on Monday.

Meg, a soft-spoken high school senior, said her dad committed suicide because of his meth addiction.

Not only did she lose her father to meth, but an uncle as well.

"My uncle was in the same situation," she told Boozman. "He was into meth really bad."

Meg remembered when meth first surfaced in her life, at the tender age of five, when her dad first started using the drug.

"My parents fought a lot, to the point where it was almost like they we trying to kill each other," she recalled.

Her dad wasn't around much, Meg said, because he was either driving trucks or sleeping for days at a time when he did return home.

"From the time I was eight until 16, he didn't have anything to do with me because he was too far gone," she recalled. "My grandparents tried to get him help."

She said he didn't work the last several years of his life because his health had failed. His teeth were gone, he suffered from shingles, kidney stones and other ailments.

"The people who helped me the most," she said, "were my grandparents and my mother. And, I got used to the fact that I didn't have a dad around."

Dr. Merlin Leach, director of the Merlin Foundation, pointed out to Boozman that although Meg has lived with meth most of her life, she has managed to excel academically and plans to attend college.

He also noted that there are no support services available for people like Meg.

"We have the most comprehensive program in the county but we would never know this person exists," he said. "Our net is not inclusive enough."

It's people like Meg, he explained, that fall through the cracks.

"Kids who go down the tubes get help," he noted, "but it's the Megs of the world who we need to prop up."

Leach said the most fragile person in this situation was Meg's grandmother.

"She's completely devastated," he said. "Her only child killed himself and she couldn't do anything to help him. The damage is unbelievable."

Boozman agreed, saying, "If you talk to anyone in law enforcement, they'll say 70 percent of crime is meth-related. And, that's a conservative figure. It's a major, major problem in Arkansas.

"Our prisons are jam-packed with meth users," he continued. "A lot of them are females, single moms who were trying to work two or three jobs to make ends meet."

He asked Meg if kids at her school took meth.

"Personally, I have friends doing meth," she responded.

"Is there any way to keep your friends away?" he asked.

"Shut down the labs," Meg answered. "That's where kids get it. It's easy to have labs around here because of the remote areas."

Boozman suggested stricter regulations on the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, one of the ingredients in most cold medications and in meth.

"It causes so much damage," he commented. "As far as the health of the nation, if it were banned tomorrow, it wouldn't affect health."

Leach responded, "We need to get the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) to look and see what they're going to use next, instead of always mopping up. We need to stop it up front. Meth is so cheap and so available. We need to stop it in its path."

Boozman noted that meth would make its way to Arkansas from Mexico even if all the local labs were shut down.

"We need to break the generational cycle and provide the resources," said Boozman.

He said a sweeping bill is expected in Congress in the next six months.

"In Congress," he explained, "we can legislate, but change has to come from peoples' hearts."

Boozman thanked Meg for her candid comments and assured her he would do what he could to save others from the life she had lived.

"She's our campaign girl for anti-drugs," Leach commented. "We need more Megs out there and less damaged kids. Our net is not inclusive enough. I'm learning more from her than she'll ever get from me."

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