We've all heard about homemade meth labs - even mobile meth labs operating in moving vehicles - but what do they look like? How can you tell if a meth lab is located in your community?
A training class in Elkins Tuesday offered local residents practical information such as:
- Be suspicious of strong odors coming from a building or vehicle, including the smells of battery acid, nail polish remover and ammonia.
- Blacked-out windows, a steady stream of visitors - especially at night - and excessive amounts of trash around a property are warning signs for residents.
- Meth is relatively easy to find and buy, and is less expensive than other drugs. It can be eaten, smoked, snorted or injected. All forms of it are extremely addictive and cause severe physical problems.
The class was presented by the Randolph County Family Resource Network at the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church.
Those in attendance learned that methamphetamine use grew significantly in 2012 across the U.S., with a major increase in the Mountain State. West Virginia saw a higher-than-the-national-average percentage of meth users across the board, but particularly between the ages of 18 and 25.
Rebecca Vance, director of the Family Resource Network, was encouraged by the turnout for Tuesday's class.
"I'm so impressed by the amount of people taking an interest in this issue," Vance said. "It's great that people want to learn something and are actively trying to make a difference."
The timing of Tuesday's class was perfect, as the media is saturated this week with entertainment news about this Sunday's final episode of the TV show "Breaking Bad," which concerns itself with methamphetamine.
The show's main character is Walter White, a family man and high school chemistry teacher, who in the first episode learned he was dying of cancer. After the shock of the diagnosis, he began secretly using his scientific skills to cook high-quality meth, raising money to pay his medical bills and to leave his beloved wife and children a nest egg for their future.
You may have heard the old saying "Good intentions don't make it right." From the first episode, White's foray into the world of meth - which he never uses himself - begins to corrupt his soul. The mild-mannered teacher slowly turns into an egomaniacal monster, leaving corpses, collateral damage and a trail of blood in his wake (not to mention the thousands of customers whose bodies have been poisoned by his product).
In these last episodes, White's criminal life completely destroys his family, finally reaching into his home and irrevocably harming the very people he was trying to protect.
The message is clear: living the criminal life - and getting involved with meth - will always have terrible repercussions. Many lives have been ruined, and not just those of the users and dealers. Far too often spouses and children suffer as well.
It's a message we don't have to turn on the television to see - it's been illustrated clearly in our local communities in recent years. Hopefully educational programs like Tuesday's class and efforts by groups like the Randolph County Family Resource Network can help change this sad story. Wouldn't it be nice to see a happy ending in real life?