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‘Methdown’ could solve drug problem

Any county that can shed more than 7,000 pounds in two months can do anything it puts its mind to.

I was thinking about that the other day in the lunchroom as I tackled a Big Mac with cheese.

Actually … I wasn’t thinking about that until Sally walked up and suggested it. Sally is our business manager and one of the few people in the company authorized to walk up on me while I have a Big Mac in my hand. So she walked up to my Big Mac and started talking about how great it was to see this Nevada County Meltdown get so much support and national recognition.



At first I thought she was just trying to lay a guilt trip on me. I think the Meltdown was one of the best community events ever, but I really didn’t want to talk about it with my mouth full of Big Mac. And I’d just worked out the year before.

Sally said she’d been speaking with another employee who wondered how great it would be if we could generate an equal amount of community enthusiasm toward ridding Nevada County of a drug problem that threatens to tear it apart.




Before Sally could finish her sentence, I got it. “Nevada County Methdown!” I shouted. “What a great idea!”

So I stole it.

Before I get into the details of my proposed Nevada County Methdown, I want to make sure I don’t offend anyone involved in the Nevada County Meltdown. Here’s to them: You’re terrific, energetic, cooperative, healthy and … and … famous.

But there’s lots of work left to do. We might be skinnier but this meth problem is still hanging on like a bad cold. Ask any cop, prosecutor or judge. Most meth users have no use for a “Meltdown.” The drug steals their appetite for anything other than more drugs. They get their exercise running around breaking into houses and cars.

Most of them would like to stop doing that, but can’t. That’s what addictions do to you. They steal your will power and everything that went with it – dignity, honesty and teeth. One former meth addict told The Union last week that it’s worse than smoking and almost impossible to quit. “I stayed up for three weeks once without a catnap,” he said.

Riding on the success of the Meltdown, the Methdown (I plan to trademark it and sell videos and T-shirts) would kind of follow a similar model.

Our goal would be to lose 7,000 pounds of meth, or 7,000 meth dealers, whichever comes first.

Meetings will be held at the Fairgrounds under heavy security. Meth users will be encouraged to show up and trade in their drugs for food and treatment. Volunteer participation would bring total amnesty. In fact, if they rat out a drug dealer, they get extra food and extra treatment.

Just as they did with the Meltdown, teams would be formed under a “peer pressure” system. Addictions are easier to kick with a buddy. Anyone who has run a marathon can attest to that.

And if this area has nothing else, it’s got more counselors, therapists and natural healers per capita than anywhere in the world. It shouldn’t be tough to muster a pretty strong volunteer force to meet every Tuesday night to greet and treat the drug addicts looking for a helping hand.

Law enforcement officials and toxic waste disposal units could be on hand to get rid of the methamphetamine and the hazardous chemicals it takes to cook the stuff. Experts say that each pound of manufactured meth produces five to six pounds of hazardous waste. Research has found that clandestine drug operators (the ones who cook it next-door to schools and in residential neighborhoods) commonly dump the waste into the ground, sewers, streams or rivers. Think about that next time you’re standing next to an NID ditch.

The cooking process produces a stench described as a mix between soiled gym socks and rotten eggs. Smaller labs try to conceal the stench by using a hose to run the fumes from glass cooking flasks through kitty litter before it’s piped outside. That’s why it’s tough to find the labs until they blow up.

Much of our Nevada County Methdown efforts will be focused on education. If we’re going to destroy the labs, we need to know what to look for. Some clues include:

– Covered or blackened windows of a home or apartment.

– Unusual traffic and activities, such as excessive night traffic.

– Packaging from over-the-counter ephedrine or pseudoephedrine cold pills.

– Packaging from Epsom salts or rock salts.

– Anhydrous ammonia tanks; propane tanks or coolers containing anhydrous ammonia.

– Respiratory masks or filters, dusk masks, rubber gloves, funnels, hosing and clamps.

– Apartments that smell like chemicals, including sweet, bitter, ammonia or solvent smells.

There’s more, of course, but you get the point. Methamphetamine use is the single, most significant problem facing us today. If you don’t believe it, you haven’t been paying attention.

I got a call a couple of weeks ago from someone up at Lyman Gilmore School, upset that I’d been reminding folks of a recent drug lab bust up near that school. “If you must mention the name of our school, could you at least spell it correctly?” she scolded. (I think I spelled it Lymon by mistake.)

I can only hope that she was even more upset by the fact that drugs were being manufactured so close to her students. That’s where the outrage needs to be directed.

It’s time for Nevada County to fight back. If we can drop 7,000 pounds, we ought to be able to make a pretty good dent in this drug problem of ours. I hope to hear from you.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears each Tuesday.


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