PENDLETON - Area educators were the students Friday morning, learning how devastating the methamphetamine epidemic is in Oregon.

"Oregon eighth-graders are using an illicit drug like meth at almost two times the national average," Rob Bovett, legal counsel for Oregon Narcotics Enforcement and author of Oregon's meth lab precursor laws, told about 45 administrators, teachers and counselors from northeast Oregon.

Umatilla County Sheriff John Trumbo, who serves on Gov. Ted Kulongoski's Meth Task Force with Bovett, asked him to speak to the educators at the Umatilla-Morrow Education Service District. Bovett was also part of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden's Meth Summit in Pendleton Friday night.

"The reason people around here need to know about meth is because it's in your schools," Trumbo told the educators Friday morning. "Some of what you learn will be a little bit disturbing, but I guarantee when you leave here today, you'll have a whole new appreciation for this issue."

Bovett took the educators through what he calls "Meth 101," a basic rundown of the different types of meth in Oregon. The most common is crystal, or ice, meth, which can be snorted, injected, eaten and, most commonly, smoked.

Bovett noted that parental substance abuse is the No. 1 reason for children to be placed in the state's child welfare system. About 70 percent of that substance abuse is due to meth.

Meth is devastating to the body, Bovett said. It dissolves brain cells and tricks the brain into releasing dopamine, triggering a pleasure response.

"There's nothing in life that comes close to the instant pleasure received from meth, but there's a price to pay," Bovett said.

He showed mug shots of what officers refer to as "frequent fliers" - drug addicts who are consistently arrested and thrown in jail for substance abuse or possession, property crimes and theft. The series of mug shots showed a single woman over a period of about 10 years, during which she appeared to have aged closer to 30 years.

"Meth is so addictive that addicts will do just about anything to get their next fix," Bovett said.

He told a story of an addict who said if given a choice between his 6-year-old daughter sitting at one end of a table and a baggy of meth at the other, he'd "be crying all the way to the baggy."

"The first high is the best high, and they can never get back to that high they had the first time," Bovett said. "But they sure do try."

Bovett said as many as a fifth of babies born in rural Oregon and Washington hospitals are born addicted to meth because their mothers used during pregnancy.

"We're all paying a huge price for this," Bovett said.

Want to know more?

More information about the meth epidemic in Oregon is available by logging onto the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association's Web site.

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