PRYOR, OK —
Editor’s note: The Times will have a four-part series about methamphetamine over four consecutive weekend editions.
The project covers the subject from various angles, including both ends of the spectrum - law enforcement and the addict. It also includes interviews with health professionals and counselors.
Most of the arrests in Mayes County include methamphetamine, leading to the highest number of incarcerations.
Heart racing, adrenaline pumping, nerves on high alert.
This is how Investigator Jason Treat of the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office responds to every methamphetamine bust.
“If I didn’t fear for my safety, I think it’d be time to find a new profession,” said Treat. “I think a lack of fear allows carelessness to sneak in.”
Treat said it has become common knowledge that Mayes County has a meth problem. As a special agent assigned to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics taskforce, he’s seen his fair share of busts.
It’s a quiet county, with one Walmart and a church on every corner, but...
“What people don’t know is how much evil is around them on a daily basis,” said Treat. “Its like a living nightmare.”
Foul-smelling labs that could explode at any time are worked by people who have no respect for the law. The “cooks,” usually addicts themselves, have burned the skin off their hands, have sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, rotted teeth and head-to-toe meth sores. It does sound like a nightmare, but Treat said it’s an every-day scene.
“Who are the addicts? They’re not always who you think,” Treat said. “It’s your neighbor, your co-worker, the cashier that checks you out at the store, the owner of a Fortune 500 company, it could even be your spouse.”
Treat said meth, like its addicts, knows no bounds.
“The dealer is the person who just got out of prison and sees no other way to make a living. It’s the person giving you food at the drive-thru window, or the old lady down the street that everybody loves,” said Treat.
In a county as small as this one, with a problem this huge, the odds are high you’ll run into a meth addict or user anywhere you go.
The casual user may show few symptoms to the untrained eye. But as the effects of the homemade drug are highly addictive, there aren’t many that stay casual users for long.
“The user who has been using more for longer, is more noticeable to the general public. They grind their teeth, they have unexplainable body movements and sores from picking meth bugs,” said Treat, of sores caused by users digging at their skin to remove imaginary bugs.
Cooks, dealers and addicts are all a danger to the community.
“Addicts are a threat because they are driving down our roads with school kids in the crosswalks and our families sharing the road. These are the people so paranoid they shoot out the door of their house at the mailman or trash man because they’re paranoid someone is out to get them and their drugs,” said Treat. “As a parent, I hate to see it but often meth addicts are people more worried about getting high than they are about feeding their toddlers.”
Dealers prey on the volatile addicts, knowing they’ll soon be searching for their next fix.
“They know that the kid starting to get bored with marijuana will soon be talked into trying meth and become another junkie willing to trade a box of pseudoephedrine for a bump of meth.
“It’s a dangerous world,” said Treat, who knows just how seedy the meth world can be. “The methods may have evolved, but it’s all just as dark.”
Treat said it all starts with pseudoephedrine, cold medicine, but rather than curing anything it’s making the problem worse.
He said training is crucial as the other ingredients in meth are commonplace household items.
“These cooks are using common kitchen and household ingredients,” said Treat. “But what they’re cooking up is a felony charge.”
Treat said the county, which used to be the meth capitol of the state, still has a meth epidemic, but also has devoted law enforcement officers willing to face the evil head on.