This Thursday is national Methamphetamine Awareness Day. Council Bluffs native Michael Behm retired after a career with the Nebraska State Patrol and heads the Cornhusker state’s Crime Commission today. He says while other programs aim at kids, cops or bystanders, this one targets those who are using the illegal drug. The national program tries to reach potential meth users and educate current users about programs, using law enforcement agencies and particularly U-S Attorneys’ offices. He says agencies have gone through a number of campaigns trying to tackle the stubborn problem of meth use and addiction. One program focused on drastic photos of how bad their looks deteriorate after even a short time on the drug, which he says accompanies a risk to their mental health and physical well-being. Behm says law-enforcement and public-health officials have talked with meth users who wound up behind bars or in treatment programs, and he has some sympathy for them. “A lot of these poor people…became meth users through association with a boyfriend or girlfriend, direct family member, or a friend who introduced them to this drug,” Behm says, “and it is probably one of the most devastating drugs that has hit the United States in many years.” He says it’s one of the few hard drugs not concentrated in big cities, as many others have been. It’s hit rural areas particularly hard, including Nebraska where he lives today and Iowa and Missouri, where it became clear meth makers were getting the anhydrous ammonia they used from farmers’ fertilizer tanks left out in the fields. He says Iowa State University gets credit for recently introducing a chemical additive that renders the anhydrous worthless for making the drug. Behm says Iowa also led the nation in passing a law locking up over-the-counter cold pills used as another ingredient.
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Meth Awareness Day