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Fighting Drugs, A Battle That Must Be Fought
CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – “With all of our efforts with the task force, we will not eliminate the drug problem,” said Mark Aaron – Clarion County District Attorney and the leader of the Clarion County Drug Task Force.
“No task force ever has or likely ever will eliminate all of them. But, we do our job and have decreased the flow into Clarion County, and I think the drug dealers know that if they do get caught in Clarion County, it will be taken seriously, and they will hurt (i.e.: the sentence),” added DA Aaron.
The number of drug cases dropped from 122 in 2016 to 89 in 2017 thanks in part to the task force. So far in 2018, they have had two drug cases (at the time of this interview). He appreciates the work of the task force and feels that is one reason the numbers may have dropped, but he has noticed a change in the drug of choice from 2016 to 2017. There is a movement away from heroin to meth.
“As part of our work, we do talk with some of the people involved in the drug world in Clarion County, and there appear to be two reasons for the change. Number one is that people have seen too many of their friends die from heroin laced with fentanyl. The deadly drug is mixed or cut in with the heroin to make the drug stronger and more valuable.”
For example, someone buys a hundred grams of heroin and cuts it with baby formula and fentanyl, and those hundred grams becomes hundreds and hundreds and is more valuable on the street. Fentanyl is a favored painkiller because it acts fast. But, it’s also 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine.”
“The second reason people change is that they believe, and I think they are accurate, they’ve seen too many of their friends get busted for heroin. They made the switch to meth that can be made with materials from a hardware store or Walmart. With a minimum investment in material, they can make enough meth for themselves and friends, and the cycle keeps going.”
Aaron operates the drug task force out of his Liberty Street office with part-time detective Bill Peck and part-time officer Roger Wright. Both also serve in full-time positions with the Clarion Borough Police Department.
“Opioids are still a problem,” continued Aaron, “But, if you ask right now what is the number one problem between opioids and meth, up to 2016, I would have said heroin, but now it’s meth.”
“We started the drug task force back in 2006, and we have been harping on opioids ever since. It’s coming on 12 years now, and it’s nice to see some attention coming from the state and federal level with President Trump declaring a state of emergency. It’s nice to see after we’ve been fighting this for 12 years now.”
Big difference between opioids and meth
“If you ask any cop what they would like to deal with — whether someone is high on heroin or high on meth — they would say heroin is much easier to deal with in making an arrest. Meth is usually the ones that can go out of their minds. It’s the difference between a stimulant and a depressant.”
Meth is a stimulant, and opioids (of all kinds) are depressants. Meth is more addictive than opiates such as heroin or cocaine. Meth is similar to speed or crack. The difference between these two kinds of drugs is how they work on the body.
“Opioids bring death because it is a depressant, and their system gets so depressed (ie: respiratory depression) that they stop breathing.”
(Respiratory depression relates to the feeling of having a reduced urge to breathe. When opiates are taken in high doses or drugs are mixed with each other, the result of respiratory depression can be deadly.)
“OD’s from meth happen through cardiac arrest. People get excessively stimulated, and they (have) a heart attack.”
Obtaining the drugs can also be different.
People can make a car trip to an urban area to buy heroin and return with it to use or sell.
“With meth, they can acquire the raw material locally and cook it in their basement, garage, shed, or what have you. Most use the shake and bake or one-pot method.”
“The type of meth we see here locally is the shake and bake powdered meth. There is a difference between powdered meth and crystal meth. Crystal meth is imported into the area from other states and even Mexico. Crystal meth was part of a case in Jefferson County where there were five charged in a suit filed by the attorney general.”
Aaron said every shake and bake methamphetamine manufacturer technically creates a toxic waste dump because of the by-products that are produced.
“Each time we find a meth lab, by necessity, the state police clandestine lab response team responds, and they have to clean up the site. The state police fund the team, and it’s available to the state police and local law enforcement for cleanup meth labs because, frankly, if the cost to clean up some of these meth labs were not available, it would break some small municipalities.”
“All opiates work in the same way and relieve pain, suppressing your nervous system, but stimulants cause your heart race. Neither is good.”
Aaron admits to some frustration with his job.
“Sure, there are times when we get frustrated, but you look at this as fighting a battle. Despite the frustration, I think it’s a battle that must be fought. We have never said that we will 100 percent eliminate the drug problem.”
“I think that the efforts of our drug task force have decreased the problem to some extent. It is a benefit to the community like doing what we can to eradicate drug dealers in Clarion County.”
This is part one of a two-part series. Check back for part two on Tuesday, March 19, 2018.
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