Meth has become an epidemic in the Akron area, eclipsing both cocaine and heroin use combined because it’s easy and cheap to manufacturer, experts said at a special meth forum Wednesday night.
“The proliferation of meth labs and meth production has just become increasingly troublesome, increasingly dangerous to our families and to our children,” said John Saros, executive director of Summit County Children Services, which sponsored the event.
The forum attracted more than 100 people to the Akron-Summit County Public Library downtown. They listened intently to lengthy presentations by law enforcement and Dr. Darryl Steiner of Akron Children’s Hospital, who provided background about the drug, complete with horrific photos of meth users with rotted teeth and children who were exposed with sores on their bodies.
Summit County sheriff’s Capt. Hylton Baker, the head of the county drug unit, and Akron police officer Chris Crockett, who’s credited with removing 500 to 600 meth labs from the city, also warned people not to be misled by the term “meth lab.”
The drug — made by mixing chemicals such as lithium batteries, ammonium nitrate, drain cleaner and pseudoephedrine — isn’t manufactured in pristine science labs using microscopes and glass beakers. It’s a dirty, dangerous process that is prone to explosions, they said.
They advised people to be wary if they spot a ton of ingredients used to make meth. For example, they’ve seen coffee filters and kitty litter in homes where there’s no coffee maker or cat.
The new trend involves portable meth labs. The drug now can be made quickly in 1- or 2-liter pop bottles and toted around in backpacks.
The bottles are extremely combustible and should be avoided, they said.
Crockett estimated that users can buy all the necessary equipment and ingredients for less than $100.
“It’s priced right for the high,” he said. “That’s why meth is such an epidemic.”
Akron police have seized more than 125 meth labs so far this year, he said.
The Akron area has been identified as the hardest hit by meth in Ohio, but authorities say it’s because they are so aggressive in tracking down meth labs and reporting them.
Meth tends to be a problem for white and Hispanic individuals, Crockett said. It can be found in both poor and rich neighborhoods, and across all ages.
Children Services sponsored the forum because of the devastating effect the drug has on kids — not only if they are exposed daily to meth but also because children of meth users tend to be neglected or abused, the experts said.
The forum proved fascinating for those in attendance.
“Druggies are resourceful people,” said Rick Smeltz, a block watch captain in Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood who has been pushing for statewide meth legislation.
Linda Wilkerson of Akron came because she wanted to educate herself, especially after hearing that the drug can be made in pop bottles.
“It’s very interesting to me that it can be as simple as that,” she said. “I wanted to educate myself to educate my kids.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.