Next Tuesday, the Sheriff's Department will host a daylong conference explaining exactly what methamphetamine is and how it affects the body and the community. Detecting signs of methamphetamine abuse will also be discussed.
Because it is cheap and easy to make, authorities say methamphetamine has one of the highest addiction rates of any drug for first time users.
Since Sheriff Sam Parker took office in 2003, the department has been involved in eight meth lab busts, four of which involved repeat offenders arrested less than one year after being caught with their first lab.
Five of those busts occurred while the methamphetamines were either still being cooked or had just finished cooking, which is when dangerous fumes and gases are still present.
According to a release put out by the Sheriff's Department, there are different hazards in each stage of cooking methamphetamines. Some of the ingredients that go into making the drug include solvents such as brake fluid being mixed with drain cleaner and anhydrous ammonia. The ammonia becomes especially dangerous due to its explosive nature when converted from a gas to a liquid.
Because of all the dangers, there is a cost to the county of several thousand dollars to clean up methamphetamine labs. While authorities are only cleaning up smaller operations in the county now, the cost of cleanup will rise as the amount of meth being cooked increases.
So far the cost of cleaning up meth labs in Chesterfield County has ranged from $3,200 to $8,900.
Operations not found and dealt with by authorities can be dangerous to the environment. Most of the waste produced from the labs end up in local dumpsters, on the side of roads, dumped in the woods, or left in vacant trailers and houses, leading to to possible air and water contamination.
Another major hazard that remains constant in meth lab busts is whether the cooker is high on the drug at the time. According to a release from the Sheriff's Department, meth users can be very unpredictable because the drug creates such a heightened sense of paranoia that can make them violence.
Extensive meth use has been known to keep users up for several days until their body finally shuts down, and they sleep for three or four days.
There have been two reported cases in Chesterfield County where people on methamphetamines have stayed awake for over six days. In another case, a user was mowing his grass after midnight using a flashlight.
Dental problems are also common with people on meth because the drug slows or stops saliva from being produced and causes tooth decay.
Special Agent Shannon Argetsinger of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Atlanta Division will be the guest speaker at next Tuesday's conference.
The conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Chesterfield County Department of Social Service's Commons Room with a $10 fee to attend. Lunch will be provided.
For information, contact the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department, 623-9395.