ENID, Okla. — One in four people who try meth become addicted for life.
That sobering statistic came from Stacy Fletcher, who conducts training and outreach for Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, and spoke Monday in Enid.
Meth and other street drugs are catching up to prescription drugs in the number of overdose deaths, she told members of Enid Rotary Club. She spoke about the dangers of drugs across the state and her agency's role in fighting those dangers.
"Meth still has a very large presence in our state," she said. Fletcher said because of a crackdown on the illegal use of prescription medications, drug users are turning back to meth and heroin.
She said meth still has a presence in Garfield County, with the majority of drug-related arrests in the area associated with meth.
"Meth is wholly manmade. There is nothing naturally occurring in it," she said. "Meth is a neurotoxin. It essentially eats your brain."
Fletcher said meth "corrodes" synapses in the brain, and even if a person stops using meth, it can take seven to 14 years before the body can regain those synapses lost to the drug.
"Meth is not going away in Oklahoma. It continues to increase each year. It still has a large presence in our state," she said. "Here, I believe our largest issue is meth. Every town, and even all the small towns, tell me the problems they are having with meth."
She said Oklahoma is known for its problem with the deadly drug.
"I do believe its going to take a combination of not only law enforcement and our communities, and mental health services to stop that," she said.
But, Fletcher also urged Rotarians to continue using prescription take-back boxes the agency has placed across the state.
"You don’t want other people to have access to them and get ahold of them," she said. "In 2016, we took back almost 30,000 pounds of pills. That’s a lot. That’s two full grown elephants and then a baby. "
Fletcher said she has fielded more questions about marijuana since the passage of State Question 788 that allowed for medical marijuana in the state.
"Marijuana today is not the same as in the '70s and '80s. Back then, it was only labeled a depressant because of the level of THC," she said. Now, the drug is labeled as a depressant, hallucinogen and stimulant.
She said marijuana extracts, containing concentrated levels of THC, are another substance the agency was seeing more often.
"This stuff if very important to know about," Fletcher said.
She warned that teens who are vaping or using Juuls can get cartridges for the devices that contain marijuana extracts with high levels of THC.
Fletcher also warned the club about synthetics, such as K2 or Spice, being sold in "mom and pop" gas stations.
"All this is chemical sprayed on plant byproduct originally created to get around drug testing," Fletcher said. "If you're not comfortable getting under your sink and drinking all the products, then you have no business snorting, smoking or ingesting this."
She said synthetics often are sold in flashy packaging and are sometimes marketed as "potpourri." She said when laws are passed to outlaw the chemicals found in the synthetics, the product is often resprayed with a new yet-to-be outlawed chemical. She called the process a “big game of cat and mouse” between the producers and lawmakers.