Drug Sum­mit was great first step in fight­ing meth in our area

The Wichita Eagle - - Opinion - Blake Shuart Blake Shuart is a Wi­chita at­tor­ney.


Many Wi­chi­tans were sur­prised when James Chung, an Ivy League­trained con­sul­tant with lo­cal roots, blasted into town this sum­mer to of­fer a grim ap­praisal of our city’s eco­nomic fu­ture, a prob­lem Chung con­tends is driven by a con­strained la­bor mar­ket, an at­ti­tude prob­lem and chronic un­der­in­vest­ment in our pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors. Chung’s find­ings were news to those of us who think Wi­chita is slowly be­gin­ning to ful­fill its prom­ise as a city to be reck­oned with, a place with ex­cit­ing things hap­pen­ing in our midst.

But bad things are hap­pen­ing as well. Bub­bling promi­nently un­der­neath Wi­chita’s sur­face is a metham­phetamine epi­demic fu­eled by ad­dicts who will do any­thing for their next high and who are com­mit­ting ma­jor crimes at an as­ton­ish­ing clip.

The most sig­nif­i­cant meet­ing in Wi­chita this year was not the un­veil­ing of the Chung re­port – it was the Wi­chita Crime Com­mis­sion’s Sedg­wick County Drug Sum­mit on Oct. 25. While there were more prob­lems cited than so­lu­tions of­fered, the meet­ing was mon­u­men­tally im­por­tant, as hav­ing lead­ers in our law en­force­ment com­mu­nity clearly ar­tic­u­late our is­sues in pub­lic was a cru­cial first step. The sta­tis­tics on lo­cal crime at­trib­uted to meth abuse are stag­ger­ing:

Ac­cord­ing to Dis­trict At­tor­ney Marc Ben­nett, 11 per­cent of all charged felony cases in Sedg­wick County in­clude at least one count of pos­ses­sion of meth. Seven out of 10 in­mates in the Sedg­wick County jail are strug­gling with drug ad­dic­tion, and many are ad­dicted to meth. Meth ad­dicts are of­ten para­noid, delu­sional and will­ing to com­mit vi­o­lent crimes to ob­tain more drugs. As the eu­phoric ef­fects di­min­ish, abusers en­ter the “tweak­ing” stage in which they go long pe­ri­ods with­out sleep and be­come in­creas­ingly anx­ious, ir­ri­ta­ble and vi­o­lent with­out provo­ca­tion – lead­ing to dis­as­trous re­sults. Lo­cal tragedies, such as the shoot­ing death of Sedg­wick County Deputy Robert Kunze at the hands of a meth­fu­eled crim­i­nal, are il­lus­tra­tive of the drug’s dan­ger­ous side ef­fects. Other vi­o­lent crimes are hap­pen­ing all around our city on a reg­u­lar ba­sis which can be di­rectly traced to meth abuse.

Wi­chita’s long and tor­tured ef­forts to erad­i­cate the drug are un­sur­pris­ing when na­tional sta­tis­tics are con­sid­ered, as our fed­eral gov­ern­ment has waged a decades-long bat­tle against the drug with mixed re­sults. As Sedg­wick County Sher­iff Jeff Easter de­clared at the sum­mit, “We’ve been fight­ing the War on Drugs since the 1980s. And we’re los­ing.”

In 2005, Congress passed the Com­bat Metham­phetamine Act in an ef­fort to curb pseu­doephedrine-based pro­duc­tion. But stomp­ing out pseu­doephedrine ac­cess did lit­tle to dis­suade pro­duc­ers, who sim­ply found a way to make more of the drug at a cheaper cost. Mex­i­can drug car­tels have now cor­nered the mar­ket, and traf­fick­ers are de­liv­er­ing 100 per­cent pure prod­uct at a cheap price. There is more meth on the streets in 2018 than ever be­fore, which means more peo­ple are be­com­ing ad­dicted, more peo­ple are com­mit­ting crimes to sup­port their ad­dic­tion, and more peo­ple are dy­ing from it.

The Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion has fo­cused its ef­forts on coun­ter­ing opi­ate abuse, which is also a ma­jor prob­lem in our coun­try. But the meth epi­demic can­not and must not be over­looked – es­pe­cially here in Wi­chita. We must not let crime in our city run ram­pant at the hands of metham­phetamine abuse. We must con­tinue to dis­cuss the prob­lem be­fore our con­ver­sa­tions can turn to tan­gi­ble so­lu­tions, and the Drug Sum­mit was a great start.

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