ANDERSON — In the span of four years, methamphetamine went from a blip on the law enforcement radar to a prime target in this city northeast of Indianapolis.
From 2000 to 2009, 40 labs were seized in Madison County by police. In four years since then, 217 have been dismantled by officers.
“It’s almost everything we do now,” said a Madison County Drug Task Force detective who asked to remain anonymous to protect his safety.
Those on the front line of the war against meth often focus on pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in methamphetamine production. A proposed measure that’s gaining support would categorize the cold medicine as a controlled substance obtainable only with a doctor’s prescription. Currently, pseudoephedrine is available to consumers but must be kept behind a pharmacy counter.
Other states with widespread meth problems have passed prescription laws and seen a reduction in local meth cooking and use. Some people, however, believe it would be a disservice to the greater good to take widely used cold remedies — medicines containing pseudoephedrine — off the shelf where they are readily accessible to the general public.
TURNING LIVES AROUND
Every Monday, Madison County Circuit 3 Judge Thomas Newman greets candidates for drug court. The special court is designed to find solutions other than prison for addicts. Offenders generally can’t participate in drug court if they have prior violent or sexual offenses. But if offenders violate probation by abusing drugs, they might qualify for drug court to stay out of prison.
Their problems range from meth addiction to marijuana use. The court works with local businesses to help offenders find employment and offers therapy and guidance through Aspire, a local substance-abuse support center. Graduation of 18-month and three-year programs takes place every six months.
Today, Madison County boasts the largest drug court in Indiana, with about 120 participants circulating through the program. Roughly 20 candidates graduate the program each cycle.