PENDLETON - Most people are aware of the problems methamphetamines pose in Eastern Oregon, but many do not know how to deal with a person who needs help or is seeking a way out of the drug's powerful addiction, say two people who deal with the challenge every week.

Jay Wurscher and Eric Martin put on an all-day meth awareness training session at St. Anthony Hospital Thursday to teach people how to recognize meth users and how to help them. Wurscher is an alcohol and drug services coordinator for the Oregon Department of Human Services. Martin is a counselor for the Association of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counselors of Oregon.

People think there's some magical solution to treating meth addicts," Wurscher said. "But quite frankly, it's how you talk to people. You can hold people to higher standards and hold them accountable without making them feel bad."

Often, Wurscher and Martin said, meth addicts do not come forward for treatment because they feel ashamed or fear they'll be embarrassed by health workers.

"When you get angry at these folks for their addiction, you then become a part of the problem," Martin said.

It's important to avoid negative reactions and instead encourage medical treatment and testing, they stressed. Collecting, processing and offering educational information to the addict can be helpful.

"We want to get those crazy beliefs and ideas from them so we can educate them," Martin said.

He cited numerous cases in which meth addicts had skewed notions of the drug they use. Some users believe meth, which causes increased levels of serotonin (which increases sexual desire), is the same thing as Viagra. Martin said that while meth does produce more serotonin, it also reduces the ability to achieve orgasm or main- tain erection.

Meth users also cite various excuses for not seeking treatment for their addictions. Wurscher said he's heard people say they do not want to start using prescription medications or pills because they are not natural to their bodies. Others say they'll forget to take the medication so there's no point.

For some, however, seeking treatment is an admission to a problem he or she can't control on their own, and that's scary.

"By taking medication, they're admitting they're in a situation they can't control and that they need help," Wurscher said. "And many don't want to admit that - to others or themselves."

About 85 people attended the seminar, including DHS and public health employees, and people associated with Blue Mountain Community College, the Commission on Children and Families, Mt. Emily Safe Center and Families First. Umatilla, Baker, Union and Grant counties were represented at the training.

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