April 8, 2013

Meth campaign offering classes to local schools

By Christopher Smith

— Jim Langford says Whitfield County has a “meth problem” that is hurting people, especially students.

Seeing the pain meth can bring is why Langford oversees the statewide Georgia Meth Project that promotes awareness about the negative effects of meth through visceral advertisements on television, radio and billboards across the state.

But advertisement isn’t always enough to get the message across. That’s why Langford wants to offer a meth prevention class to Whitfield County Schools and Dalton Public Schools teachers to “move the conversation about meth into the classroom.”

“We want to make this available to teachers all over the state, but particularly the 20 or 25 counties in north Georgia and around Atlanta that have struggled more with meth,” he said. “Whitfield County is one of those counties. We’ve looked at a lot of statistics, had anecdotal information from law officers. Sheriff (Scott) Chitwood is a big supporter of this campaign.”

Though Langford says statistical information won’t be public for several weeks, Chitwood said “meth has become the drug of choice on the streets.”

“It is the most popular and dangerous drug we are dealing with right now,” he said. “First-time users take it on an experimental basis ... it is addicting on the first time you use it. It’s not like smoking a joint of marijuana. You can walk away from that. Meth is addictive on the first use. Regardless of what the initial draw is ... the second and third time is to feed the addiction.”

That’s why it’s so important to educate would-be users before their first time, said Langford.

“The meth prevention lesson can be a resource to help students,” he said. “The teacher goes to our resource section where they can download all the tools they need.”

The online resources include questions for students, personal stories, interactive games and videos, among other things, which Chitwood says “will make a difference.”

“ I think it is very beneficial to educate the non-user and the users today on the dangers of meth,” he said. “We’ve educated people on not to drink and drive, we’ve educated people not to take a gun to the airport, about spousal abuse ... educational value does make a difference with local, state and national level campaigns. This (Georgia Meth Campaign) is in that category. It’s a massive, major education campaign with a message.”

The message?

“This meth stuff is out there and it’s very bad,” Langford said. “Don’t do it. Even once.”