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Meth Threat In State Described

October 12, 2005
By GREGORY SEAY, Courant Staff Writer

David Parnell once personified the worst of methamphetamine addiction.

High on the stimulant, he mentally and physically abused his second wife and tormented their children. Paranoia led Parnell to shoot holes in the walls of his home and to stalk his postal carrier with a gun, thinking the mailman was an undercover agent.

Hopeless from a 23-year drug addiction that began with marijuana, Parnell blew his face apart with a rifle.

Rather than ending his life, the shot put him on the road to recovery and launched his personal crusade to end the nationwide meth problem, one that threatens Connecticut.

Parnell, 38, a former drug dealer from Martin, Tenn., shared his testimony Tuesday in Hartford with a panel of state officials from law and drug enforcement and treatment, environmental protection and public health and welfare.

The drug is making inroads into the state, according to a three-year survey by the Hispanic Health Council released Tuesday at the symposium. The Hartford-based council's study found that meth availability and abuse is growing in Hartford and suburbs such as Glastonbury and West Hartford.

"If they get ahead of it now, they'll never end up like Tennessee, in the top five for manufacture of methamphetamine," Parnell said. "They talk that you've already found four labs. I really believe that if they find one, they've missed 10."

Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano moderated the two-hour symposium at the Legislative Office Building to educate state officials about the meth threat and to consider ways to confront it.

Morano and other state officials agreed that the best weapon against meth would be a coordinated effort centered on arrests, prison time, prevention and treatment. Also, state officials said, changes in public policy should be considered.

Foremost, Morano said, "is limiting the precursor ingredients - the pseudoephedrine."

Morano gave a slide show depicting the drop in meth lab seizures in Oklahoma, Iowa and Tennessee after those states enacted laws banning over-the-counter sales of cold remedies containing the ingredient that gets meth users high. Thirty-seven states now limit retail sales of pseudoephedrine. Connecticut failed last year to adopt a similar proposal.

"If we can control that, we can control one of the key collateral problems," Morano said.

Morano and his committee of agencies - including the departments of public safety, public health, environmental protection, consumer protection, mental health and addiction services, children and families and the state child advocate - will formulate a list of recommendations.

The recommendations will be presented to Gov. M. Jodi Rell by early November, he said.

Evidence is mounting that Connecticut's encounters with meth are increasing. Aside from the bust of two East Hampton meth labs and one in New Fairfield this year, the Hispanic Health Council survey has found use growing in the state.

The health council, with funding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracked a diverse population of about 240 drug users annually on Hartford streets, starting in 2003. Based on ongoing interviews with participants and other sources, meth use is growing and the drug is easier to get, said Merrill Singer, the survey's chief investigator.

Less than a year ago, users reported meth was hard to get in Hartford, requiring a trip to New Haven or New York City, Singer said. In recent months, meth users say, it "would only take one phone call" or a visit to a Hartford home or club to score the drug, he said.

Moreover, respondents claimed they could get meth in some of the city's suburbs, namely West Hartford and Glastonbury. One sign that there is a gap between demand and availability is that users say the street price of meth remains steep.

New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz said Tuesday's session was an eye-opener, and that he will share what he learned with his patrol and narcotics commanders and fellow police chiefs. He said he was encouraged that the meth problem is not viewed solely as a law enforcement issue, but as a public-health threat.

"This is dynamite in more ways than one," Ortiz said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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