The Des Moines Register, Wednesday, April 15, 1998, Page 3M

Ex-user, agents tell of meth's peril


wpe85216.gif (26162 bytes) "My drug use was a secret to most people, and I looked like a normal teen-ager, no different than any one of your sons or daughters, students or friends."
     -- Jaime Wood
17, of Blairstown.
Her father, Ronnie Wood, of Moulton offered his support at the hearing.

    Marion, Ia. - Her testimony was first - and perhaps the most poignant - among a group of methamphetamine experts.
    "When my use of crank got really bad, I gave up everything I could to get my hands on the drug," Jaime Wood, 17, of Blairstown said Tuesday at a hearing convened by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa.  "I gave up money, my home, my family, my personal possessions and my self-respect."
    With her mother by her side, Wood described how her relationship with her family fell apart.  She stole from them and lied to them.  She even began manufacturing the drug to support her habit.
    But her family stuck by her.  Sober now for five months - with plans for college - she gave advice to parents dealing with drug-addicted children: "Oh, gosh," she said, "don't give up on them."
    And if parents suspect their children are addicted?  "Get in the middle if you can," she said.  "Do anything you can to get them away from the friends they're with.  It's probably the hardest thing to do."
    Grassley, a Republican, scheduled the hearing as chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.  It was a tour de force on meth, a highly addictive drug to which the brain becomes a slave, according to Dr. Michael Abrams of Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.
    Teen-agers listened to parts of the three-hour hearing, held in the gym at Linn-Mar Junior High School.
    Documenting how drugs are not only a metro problem but a rural one and rallying more people to become concerned about the effects of meth were among the hearing's goals.
    Another goal was to establish that the drug is being smuggled in from Mexico, a point that is not acknowledged by the Mexican government, Grassley said.
    The resident agent-in-charge of the U.S. Customs Service in San Ysidro, Calif., said trafficking occurs along well-established routes of marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
    Robert Tine brought a tire rim with a compartment in which smugglers had hidden meth before welding it shut.
    But Tine said agents face a dual threat.  Not only is meth being smuggled into the country but chemicals used to make it are also being smuggled into Mexico from the United States.
    Richard LaMere of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Cedar Rapids said Mexican traffickers' dominance of the market is largely explained by the fact that Mexican organized crime has access to large quantities of ephedrine on the international market and regularly produces "unprecedented" quantities of high-purity meth in "superlabs" in Mexico and California.
    Ken Carter, director of the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, said authorities are having an impact on some major trafficking organizations.  But, he said, they are hampered by the extent of the meth problem and limited resources - personnel and overtime costs.
    "Without significant increases in resources and support, the DNE will be unable to disrupt the flow of methamphetamine into Iowa and reduce the negative impact methamphetamine trafficking is having on the citizens of Iowa," he said.
    Wood's mother also gave suggestions to parents, telling them to stay involved with their children.  "Know their friends, know what they're doing, know where they're at," Debbie Wood said.  "Don't give up on them.   Hang in there."

wpe34041.gif (160649 bytes)
Dr. Michael Abrams of Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines
uses a model to explain meth's effects on the brain Tuesday during a
hearing on narcotics control in Marion.

Reporter Shirley Salemy can be
reached at
or (515) 284-8131.

The Des Moines Register
Wednesday, April 15, 1998, Page 3M