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The Sanpete Messenger

Meth in Sanpete

By James Tilson

A three-part series by the Sanpete Messenger from July and August of 2018

Winner of the "Best News Series" prize at the 2018 Utah Press Association Better Newspaper Contest

Photo by Robert Stevens

Part 1:

Meth-related activity accounts for more than half of all crime in Sanpete County

Published July 19, 2018

Officer Breezy Anderson of the Ephraim Police Department approached a car in the Walmart parking lot. Anderson had pulled the car over because it was being driven erratically. Inside, Anderson found a 50-year-old Mt. Pleasant woman with a history of meth use and supervised probation. Anderson tried to administer a field sobriety test, but the woman couldn’t complete the test. After taking the woman into custody, Anderson found meth and opiates in her system.

The woman was in the system again, still fighting her demons.

Editor’s Note: A number of meth users and recovering users were interviewed for this series. Pseudonyms have been used in place of their real names to protect their anonymity.

Methamphetamine, or “meth,” is perhaps the biggest single source of crime in Sanpete County.

Meth use; meth trafficking; and crimes growing out of meth activity, such as theft, DUI, domestic violence and sex crimes, account for a little more than half of all crimes committed in Sanpete County, according to Det. Derick Taysom of the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Department.

“Meth is really big,” Taysom says. “Bigger than heroin, really. Percentage-wise, it is at least a third—a third to a half—of the drugs that we seize.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.

Methamphetamine was developed early in the 20th Century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers.

Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a sense of well-being or euphoria.

However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine in that, at comparable doses, much greater amounts of the methamphetamine get into the brain, making it more potent than amphetamine. Meth also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system than amphetamines. These characteristics give meth a high potential for widespread abuse.

 

 

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a survey in 2015 that found of the roughly 267 million people in the United States over the age of 12, about 10 percent, or 27 million people, used illicit drugs. Of those, a little under 1 million, or 0.3 percent of the whole population, used meth.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Sanpete County’s population was 28,778 in 2015.  

That means the county could expect to have about 86 meth users. But based on anecdotal evidence—and the number of drug busts, arrests and convictions on the public record—there appears to be many more than that.

For example, “Andrea Sparks” (not her real name), a recovering addict, says when she was an active user in the Gunnison Valley, she knew of 20 people who were “heavy users.” With the Gunnison Valley representing a little over 11 percent of county population, that would extrapolate to 175 meth users in the whole county.

Statistics compiled by the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office show that drug and alcohol cases make up a huge majority of all arrests in Sanpete County. From mid 2017 to mid 2018, the percentage of arrests where alcohol or drugs was a factor was 66 to 86 percent, depending on the month.

Furthermore, the number of alcohol and drug arrests has been rising. In FY 2015, there were 51 arrests. In FY 2016, the number jumped to 216. In FY 2017, alcohol and drug arrests dropped to 148, but in FY 2018, they  jumped again to 161 (with statistics for the final quarter of the fiscal year yet to be added in).

Most notably, meth arrests have consistently accounted for the lion’s share of drug arrests. During FY 2016, of 106 arrests for illegal drugs, 53 (or 50 percent) were for meth. In FY 2017, 87 out of 146 drug arrests were for meth. In the first three quarters of FY 2018, there were 45 meth arrests out of 138 total drug arrests.

And law enforcement officials agree that meth gets entangled in other crimes. “I would say, at a rough guess, at least 50 percent of our cases involve meth,” says Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels. “If you counted meth and heroin, I’d say at least 85 percent.”

Deputy Malcolm Powell, a patrol deputy, says meth takes up “at least half” of his case load. “It’s usually involved with other crimes, just because people do a lot of things to get meth.”

“It’s an addiction,” Det. Taysom says. “It costs a lot of money, you end up needing more and more and more of the substance to get that high, so it becomes more and more expensive. Most jobs do drug testing now, and you can’t pass the drug test, so you can’t get a good paying job, so you have to resort to other means to make money to pay for your addiction.”

Sanpete County Public Defender David Angerhofer has the same experience with meth taking up much of his case load. “Well, if you mean drugs in general, it would be 3 of 4 (cases), counting all the different drugs that could be used, marijuana and alcohol. Meth, I’d say at least half.”

Deputy Jeff Greenwell, Sanpete County probation officer, says “at least 80 percent” of his case load is drug-related, and meth users are probably most of them. “Either meth and an opiate, or heroin or just meth. I see a lot of the combinations.”

All of the above begs the question: How did meth use become so prevalent in Sanpete County? All the local experts agree that meth has become cheap and plentiful due to the Mexican cartels entering the market.

Daniels, who published a law journal article about methamphetamine during law school, says during the 1980s and 1990s, most meth was made in “home-grown” meth labs in local areas. Then Congress came out with legislation banning the unregulated sale of the precursor chemicals, such as phosphate and Sudafed.

“It was great legislation,” says Daniels, “but what it did was push the market more towards the cartels. They started creating super-labs in the ‘90s, 2000s, and that’s what you’re seeing now.”

“Most methamphetamine comes up from Mexico, pushed by the cartels. In Utah, it will come up to Salt Lake. And then in Sanpete, users will go up to Salt Lake and bring back what they want.”

Tonia Castro, director of the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program in the Sanpete County Jail concurs. “I hear it is coming from Mexico. (Sanpete County users) have to travel out of the area to get it. And they bring it back. Probably from Salt Lake.”

According to Castro, many addicts can make enough money buying meth in Salt Lake City and bringing it back to Sanpete County that their own meth doesn’t cost them anything.

“They can do meth for free, it doesn’t cost them anything to do meth. They can leave the area, get it in Salt Lake, do as much as they want, sell enough to make a profit, then go back and get more. And the majority of people here can use it totally free. It’s the closet users who have to pay, the ones that don’t want anyone to know.”

Diana Headley, a recovering meth user, says, “You give somebody that isn’t educated or doesn’t even have the will or desire to get on state benefits, let alone work for $7 an hour, they’ve got a baby who needs some milk, and ask them, ‘Hey, will you run this for me real fast, and I’ll give you a couple grand?’ Damn straight they’re gonna.”

Sparks says back when she was using, it was easy to get meth. “Oh, it was super easy. We lived in Gunnison, and it was on every corner. If you couldn’t get it from one dealer…you could go ask somebody else.”

Sparks was asked if many people left their meth habits. Her answer was no. “It was mostly the same group of people, they’d do a little jail time and come right back to it.”

Part 2:

'Avoid it like the plague'

Users, law enforcement describe the destructive effects of meth use

Published July 26, 2018

“A few years back, in an officer-involved shooting, the suspect (who) was shooting out of the back [car] window, thought the aliens were chasing him, had a shoot-out with the cops—100 percent meth.

“He was high as a kite when they finally put him in custody. When he got sober, he said, ‘Yeah, I was off my rocker, hadn’t slept in a week.’

“The cops were trying to pull him over for a regular traffic offense. If he had acted normal, they probably would have released him. But he was so high, he started blasting out his back window at them.”

—Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels, recalling an incident involving meth use.

There are so many outrageous and horrifying stories about methamphetamine use that it can be hard to know what to believe. 

But there’s one thing on which everyone interviewed for these articles agrees. Meth ruins lives.

“Meth is just evil,” says Deputy Jeff Greenwell, Sanpete County probation officer. “Meth is a very, very nasty drug. It takes somebody who had something and ruins them quickly. It ruins their body, their life.”

“Avoid it like the plague,” agrees David Angerhofer, who, as Sanpete County public defender for several years, represented people charged with meth use and related crimes. “Meth addicts, their lives are just a shambles. [There’s] almost a sense of hopelessness about them, like there’s no way out, no way up.”

Former user Andrea Sparks (not her real name) told the Messenger, “It ruined everything. I pushed my friends away who were not into drugs. I pushed my family away. I pushed my kids away. I lost all three of my jobs that I had at the time. My husband lost his job. It was just a whirlwind, (like) drowning.”

But while everyone agrees meth is a terrible drug, people who have experience with meth and meth users have different perspectives about how and why people get hooked. Some users claim they were addicted from the first hit, while others say meth is no more addictive than any other drug.

Many claim that early trauma is a precursor of addiction to meth. Others point to youth, experimentation, peer pressure and just being dumb. A person’s particular chemistry can play a part. Some say meth mainly snares the socially and economically disadvantaged. Others say anyone get hooked.

There’s no debate about how meth works. It is a powerful stimulant that can affect the brain in such a way that nothing else gives the user pleasure. Once someone gets addicted, meth will lead to extreme behaviors, including anxiety, paranoia, impaired judgment, criminal activity, physical debilitation and sometimes death.

 

How addictive is it?

Sparks says her addiction began the first time she tried meth.

“I’m not kidding you, I was hooked. I had to have more. And then I had to try other things. So I just kept adding something new and doing more. And then I started mixing things with it. Because you’re always chasing that high, that first high.”

But Tonia Castro, coordinator of a drug treatment program in the Sanpete County Jail, says meth is not addictive upon first use based on the body’s reaction to the chemical.

“I don’t think it’s any more addictive than any other substance. It does give a longer high, so I could see where someone would like it more. But in terms of the body’s ability to get addicted to one substance or another, which is how you measure addiction, it’s the same (as other drugs).

“I’ve found that meth addicts like to return to meth. But I wouldn’t say that people get addicted to meth after the first use. A lot of people go back to it over time, maybe a month or two, once or twice, before they stick to it.”

Physical addiction is just one dimension of meth use, says Kevin Daniels, the Sanpete County attorney. “The psychological part of it, and the fact you feel like you can’t function without it” is also a draw, he says.

“Life is stressful, and boredom and stress are the two biggest reasons people get into drugs,” he says. “…If your life is tough, it helps you escape. It’s very psychologically addictive, the most of the major drugs.”

Why they do it

So if the outcome of meth is so awful, why would someone start taking it?

Among counselors, law enforcement officials and former users, most agree some combination of youthful experimentation combined with past trauma is what leads people to drugs and often to meth.

“I talk about using any substance as a way of coping,” says Lance Martin, social worker at Central Utah Counseling Center and lead therapist for the Sanpete County Drug Court. “There’s a certain amount of juvenile experimentation, that’s a first step. But there’s the unspoken thing, and that’s trauma. It can come in the form of (past) abuse, that’s the most obvious. It can also come from broken relationships.

“I think that it’s pretty common for young people to experiment with tobacco, with marijuana, with alcohol, but if they’re more vulnerable because they’ve been abused or neglected or abandoned, they’re really prime candidates for turning to substances.”

Castro, the drug counselor at the Sanpete County Jail, agrees. “Oh yeah, I would say almost everyone (involved with meth) is dealing with some sort of trauma. One of the things I say in my group is, ‘Trauma and abuse won’t make you an addict, but it’ll keep you there.’”

Sparks described how she developed post-traumatic stress disorder from an abusive boyfriend she had as a teen-ager. “It was almost like a numb feeling. I have PTSD, and (meth) made me numb, and I didn’t have to feel anything. I really liked that because it took all the emotion and everything I had been building up and it took it all away. Every time I did it, I was numb to everything.”

Diana Headley (not her real name), a recovering addict, said meth helped her deal with a sense of loneliness and isolation. “I think it was never having a sense of belonging. I’m Canadian, I was born in Canada, my dad went back to Europe, and my mom brought me and my brother to Sanpete, so we have no family here. No grandparents, no aunts, uncles, cousins, dad gone, and I always felt a little different, like an outcast.”

And Jeanette Jarvis (not her real name), says her son experienced a loss of his father as a child, which she thinks lead to his addiction.

“He does have some emotional issues that he’s battling, and he’s never received the proper amount of counseling for them. He lost his dad when he was 12, and they were really close. He just never has gotten over it. And I think that plays a lot in the addiction because I guess when you’re on the meth, you just forget everything.”

An addict may have learned his or her addictive behaviors from family. “When they are taught that this is normal, that they must manipulate to get things. Especially when it comes from mom and dad, they were using, and now they’re using with mom and dad. It’s just crazy to think about.”

Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels thinks that the “family problem” is one of the most intractable parts of dealing with an addict. “You want to solve the drug problem, you got to solve the family problem,” he says. “And I’m not necessarily saying nuclear family, mother, father, kids. I mean the people who mean ‘family’ to you.”

Det. Derik Taysom, of the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office, says situational stress can play a big role in making substance use appealing. When looking at an addict, “I will say, a lot of times, when you see someone who hits a bad place in their life, they lose their job, lose a relationship, can’t hold down a job,” drug use and abuse sometimes follow.

But Taysom is quick to add that you can’t blame every addiction on past trauma or situational stress. “I would say at least 50 percent of the people I talk to didn’t get into drug use because of stress in their lives. They started because they were young and dumb and hung out with other people who used and were given drugs by them.”

Brain chemistry

Another factor contributing to meth addiction may be a person’s particular brain chemistry, says Martin, the social worker with the Central Utah Counseling Center.

“There are people who are going to be naturally attracted to a stimulant. Somebody who struggles with depression might like the idea. (They might think) ‘I just need energy, I need something to clean the house, or fix the car, or go to work, or whatever.’

“There’s some people who function better with a stimulant. For example, someone with hyper-activity disorder, they may come across meth, and they function a little bit better. Maybe they don’t know why, or maybe they do. Maybe they were prescribed Ritalin as a child.”

Lloyd Call / Messenger Photo

Ephraim police officer Steve Cragun shows evidence tube containing a meth pipe, taken during a recent meth bust.

Socio-economic factors

Some law enforcement officials and drug counselors believe socio-economic status affects who gets involved with meth, while others say they’ve encountered addicts from all social strata.

Martin, noting that most of his clients are court-ordered and thus more likely to not have very much money, says economic background may have some influence on whether a person becomes an addict.

In Sanpete County, Martin says, one can look at how closely an addict is connected to the LDS church to see how stable that person’s life had been.

“It does create a kind of class differentiation, where you have solid citizens of the community who are working, have families, own property. And then you have those who are in that other culture, that are side-by-side but don’t associate with (the other group). And users tend to not be able to hold down jobs, tend not to own property, and that tends to reinforce those differences.”

But there are LDS members that become addicts, too, he says. “We have group therapy sessions where many of them know the primary LDS songs by heart.”

Daniels believes meth use is definitely affected by economic background. “By its very nature, you can see someone who starts somewhere else and ends up at meth, but typically it’s a working class drug,” he says.

“The intersection with the LDS culture is interesting, because [in that culture] it’s hard to justify using meth. Whereas a lot of LDS people will be more susceptible to abusing prescription drugs, because it comes from a doctor and ‘must be safe.’”

But other officials interviewed said that based on their experience, meth does not come out of a particular background.

Probation officer Greenwell says, “Originally, I thought there was going to be [a typical meth addict], but there’s not. I can’t single out a stereotype of a user. I’ve got them from 18 to 65, good backgrounds, poor backgrounds, there’s no singling it out.”

Det. Taysom agrees. “There’s always the obvious profile. But it’s not always the case. I know people who go to church and are prominent in society who use meth.”

And attorney Angerhofer says he has meth addict clients from all walks of life. “I represent a doctor and a lawyer, so when you lump them together… [with] someone who has never held a job in their life, they never seem to match [your expectations] at all.”

Meth biochemistry

Even with all of the evidence of how awful methamphetamine is, in the short term, it has a powerful pleasure-inducing effect on the user.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), most of the pleasurable effects of methamphetamine are believed to result from the release of high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is involved in motivation, pleasure and motor function.

“The neurotransmitters release dopamine into the system, and then it over clogs the receptor,” Castro says. “After that, all of these chemicals are floating around between the receptor and the transmitters, with nowhere to go, so they get pushed back up into the transmitter that sent them out, and that gives the sensation of being high.”

The elevated release of dopamine is also thought to contribute to the drug’s deleterious effects on nerve terminals in the brain.

“When the neurotransmitter sends out all of these chemicals, it sends out a burst of them, just a ton, all at once, and the receptor can’t catch it all,” she says. “The brain reacts to having made too much, and will not make any more for quite some time. Serotonin is one of those chemicals that make you feel good, feel happy, that the brain will stop producing.

“And so, when the addict isn’t high, even when you think you should be happy, for example, if your kids did well in the school play, you can’t feel happy until you force yourself to feel happy through drug use.”

The short-term effects of pleasure and “happy-ness” are accompanied by increased wakefulness and physical activity, along with decreased appetite.

There are bad short-term effects of meth, too. There can be rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat and increased blood pressure. With an overdose, elevated body temperature, or hyperthermia, and convulsions can occur, and if not treated immediately can result in death.

The long-term effects are where the dangers of methamphetamine really become evident. NIDA describes how addicts develop a tolerance to the pleasurable effects of meth and need to take higher doses, take it more frequently or change how they take it in an effort to continue to get high. Eventually, an addict may have a hard time feeling pleasure in anything except the drug.

Addicts may develop significant anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances and violent behavior. They may display psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions.

Castro finds the chemical effects of meth on the brain frequently lead to mental health issues for her clients. “They start to have-meth induced psychosis, they hear things, they’re paranoid, even when they haven’t been using for months. They’re distrustful of almost everything.”

“I had quite a few come through here diagnosed with schizophrenia. A lot of professionals have told me when they find schizophrenia in meth users, it was the meth that caused it because there was nothing there before.”

Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after a person has quit using, and stress has been shown to precipitate spontaneous recurrences of methamphetamine psychoses.

But for law enforcement, assuming a person is using meth based on his irrational behavior can be a mistake.

“Yeah, they’ve got a vibe,” says Det. Taysom. “(You think), ‘Man, that person could be on meth.’ But at the same time, it could be a mental condition. I’ve run into that a few times, you think they use meth, they’re showing the signs, but really they’ve had a head injury that’s affected their behavior, something along those lines.”

Meth addicts also develop physical problems. Castro says, “Their teeth are rotting, they have little tics. But even if they don’t develop overt physical symptoms, they still seem jittery, nervous and over confident.

“I have a guy in my group right now, he has perfect teeth, beautiful body, wonderful smile, he looks young for his age, but he’s been doing meth for years. You couldn’t have told (he has a meth history) from his appearance, but he does have that energy about him of being a meth addict.”

Behavioral consequences

Despite variability in how meth affects people, anyone using meth with any regularity is virtually certain to exhibit changes in attitude and behavior.

Marsha Hunt (not her real name), who divorced her husband because he became a meth addict, says, “He became possessive, paranoid, verbally abusive, more than he already was. (It) started getting to the point I was afraid for my own life.”

After she filed for divorce, “He followed me on Facebook, tried sending me messages, emails, texts, phone calls. He tried to break into my house…”

And Diana Headley, a recovering addict, describes how when someone becomes an addict, he or she doesn’t care about the consequences of actions anymore.

“It’s kind of like they run off of fate. There’s no mindset that, by making choices, you make the good times or the bad times…It’s like, one of these days something big is going to happen, and I’ll be sober.”

Defense attorney Angerhofer recounts how meth can force a parent to make a dreadful choice. “I do child welfare cases as well, and you’re talking to people with the very real possibility of losing their family, losing their children, and they have a choice to make—fight for their kids or do meth. And they choose meth.”

“There’s a reason they (meth users) will go and get into a shredder and reassemble all the financial documents, or they’ll strip the insulation off of a lot of copper wire, which is a tedious task,” says Daniels, the county attorney. “You’re up, you’re energetic, you’re focused, and if you’re a criminal, you’re going to use those attributes to commit new crimes.

Daniels says meth was at the heart of the Fullwood murders, an incident in 2011 where a retired couple was shot and killed in their home in Mt. Pleasant. The killer, Logan McFarland, had been doing meth and was apparently trying to rob the house to find money or goods he could sell for drugs. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Methamphetamine was at the core of the Fullwood murders. Period. Without meth, you don’t have the Fullwoods being killed,” Daniels says.

In the final analysis, meth use seems to boil down to just two pathways. Either the addict quits using—or his or her life is ruined.

“When you live this lifestyle…I stopped counting the number of friends that I’ve put in the grave in Sanpete County at 29,” says Headley. “I’ve lived here since I was 12, and now I’m 41. I’ve had a lot of friends die from addiction, and for each one of them, I never stopped to process [my grief].”

Part 3:

Mission: Not impossible

Rehab and recovery is a very difficult road, but with help, success is achievable

Published August 2, 2018

“The thing that shocked me in recovery, I was at an honors meeting,…the floor was dirty and I vacuumed. And it went through my head, ‘My God, you’re doing the floor without getting high; you’re vacuuming the floor.’

 
“For most addicts, it’s like, ‘Let me get high, then I’ll do the dishes. Let me get high, then I’ll take care of the kids. Let me get high, then I’ll get in the shower’…(Drugs) become a god, it’s your god, and it’s like worship…”

—Recovering addict Diana Headley (not her real name), describing feeling ‘normal’ after years of drug and alcohol abuse

No one likes being an addict.

No one we spoke to for this series gave glowing reviews of their life while addicted to methamphetamine or spoke longingly of their days using meth.

It is also clear that very few people, and most likely no one, can break away from addiction by themselves. All of the recovering addicts, and all of our sources from the criminal justice system, agreed rehabilitation programs and support from a variety of people were essential for addicts to get back to a normal life.

Hitting rock bottom

Meth addicts rarely seek that help voluntarily. Nearly everyone who beat meth has to “hit rock bottom” before beginning to climb out. Generally, that means being arrested, charged with a crime and being required to get help.

Lance Martin, counselor at Central Utah Counseling Center, says almost all of his clients are court ordered. “Rock bottom” usually comes when the addict is sitting in jail, finally gets sober through forced abstinence and thinks to himself or herself, “What have I done?”

Headley is typical of that scenario. “I didn’t decide [to get sober]. The criminal justice system decided for me,” she says. “I was so far gone in my addiction that I was going to the point of no comeback, and I was OK to die. I figured there was no way out, that I couldn’t redeem any part of my life worth living.”

But jail alone doesn’t trigger a motivation to stop using. “There have been times when we have arrested someone after they just got released from jail,” says Det. Derick Taysom, of the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office.

The key to having the addict kick the addiction, says Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels, is to “first, be held accountable. And second, we want to give them the tools so they don’t come back.”

Residential substance abuse treatment

The two recovery programs administered by Sanpete County are Drug Court and the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program.

RSAT, administered by Tonia Castro, a certified substance abuse counselor, is a 90-day program provided to addicts who are in the Sanpete County Jail.

The first step in the program  is a drug and alcohol screening. Castro says the screening generates a score on a tool called Addiction and Substance Index (ASI). The score indicates the severity of the person’s addiction. The ASI also identifies people who have a mental health rather than substance abuse issue, or who have concurrent mental health and substance abuse problems.

From there, Castro puts people into a drug and alcohol education group. “I teach them about their disease of addiction, how it works, how the brain works,” she says. “I teach them about triggers, cravings, how to deal with co-dependency issues that come along with addiction so they learn how to recognize them.”

Castro also teaches addicts about Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). “That’s a big one, because, especially people coming off meth, they feel like they’re crazy, their emotions are all over, their chemicals are all screwed up. I teach them that PAWS can last anywhere from six months to two years. When they know about it, they realize this is part of getting clean and they don’t feel like they’re going crazy and self-medicate with more meth.”

The next part is Moral Recondition Therapy (MRT), which is based on changing their way of thinking. MRT helps the addict identify “criminal thinking” and rebuild a moral base. This component helps the addicts recognize and stop the thinking errors that put them in jail.

Robert Stevens / Messenger Photo
Lance Martin, a licensed social worker at the Central Utah Counseling Center and clinical director for the Sanpete County Drug Court, provides individual therapy to a client in his office.

“It has a lot of little rules that drive them nuts. Like you have to do this in pencil, not in pen. And they always screw it up. When I give it back to them to do over, they say, ‘Aw, it’s no big deal.’ But it teaches them to follow even the little rules all the time. Because if you can’t follow the little rules, you can’t follow the big ones.”

The next phase of the program is Twelve Step Facilitation, which helps the addict understand the 12 steps, the precepts used in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.

“They get their hands held a lot with these,” Castro says, “because they’ve never done this before, they don’t know what it means to ‘work the steps.’ So, I work the steps with them, and when they go to meetings on the outside, they totally know what it means and how to do it.”

Finally, Castro teaches relapse prevention. “The main point of that is to identify the triggers. Emotional triggers, relationship triggers, mental/psychological/physical triggers. Identify what can make you use again, identify situations that may have already happened before and then what you can do in that situation. And then make a plan (for how to deal with the trigger).”

Drug Court

In contrast to RSAT, Drug Court operates mostly outside of jail and for a longer duration. It is aimed at people “we’ve tried everything else with, and we’re at our wits end,” says Daniels, the county attorney. The program is administered through the 6th District Court and runs one to two years. Participants who successfully complete it have a chance to have their criminal charges dismissed.

Drug Court doesn’t always succeed in getting addicts into long-term recovery. Probably the majority of people who enter the program return to addiction. That is due partly to the type of people referred to Drug Court. They tend to be severe addicts who use substances such as meth and opiates.

Defense attorney David Angerhofer thinks the Drug Court works well. “[It] does address methamphetamine specifically, and they have success stories, and I think they do a really good job. I wish we had more funding to put more people in the program.”

But Jeff Greenwell. Sanpete County probation officer, says of the Drug Court, “It’s not as successful as I wish it was. What I’m frequently told by someone who has fallen off after graduation is they went 15 months, two years, with all this structure (provided by the program), and now they’re just booted out in the wild.”

Meth rehab is hard

Regardless of how someone goes about it, rehabbing from methamphetamine addiction is hard. Very hard. And for so many reasons.

The biggest reason, and the first thing everyone involved with the drug or with addicts talks about, is that a meth addict absolutely must change who they associate with.

“For all of them, if they don’t change their associates and friends, they will fail. One hundred percent of the time, they will fail,” Daniels says. “Those who have succeeded since I’ve been with the county attorney’s office, every one of them have changed their friends groups.”

Why does that make such a difference? Daniels has a simple explanation. “Misery loves company. People in the throes of drug addiction want company. It’s no fun to do drugs by yourself.”

“They come in here and do the program,” Greenwell says. “They go out, they bump into John Doe on the street who’ve they’ve partied with for years. Now their subconscious takes over…and there they go again. Whether John Doe is pushing them towards it or not, just the association can trigger a relapse.”

Castro says meth is particularly hard to avoid in Sanpete County. “I would say that, in this area, where it’s the predominant drug, and people are using it so cheaply, that it would be harder right now and right here (to avoid it). Because there is so much and so cheap.”

Along with the problem of changing your friends, Castro says, is problem of changing what you learned at home if you came from a family that was using drugs.

“When it’s generational, it’s extremely hard for them to get out of it,” she says, “because then you don’t have support. Most people, when a person is using, they will have parents who will support them, who are there for them. But if your parents are using, too, then the chances of you going back (to drugs) are super high. I see people in here right now, where they’re in this section (of the jail) and their mom is in the other (unit).”

But in the final analysis, Daniels says, an addict’s success in rehabbing will be determined by him or her. “One of the inherently difficult aspects of drug addiction is finding out what’s going to work for that individual. We try to get statistically the most successful approaches, but at the end of the day, it really depends on giving that individual the tools to find out what they can do to manage it.”

Sara Mattern (not her real name) a drug court graduate, agrees. “It depends on the person and their motivation. I think certain people and certain personalities will make it… A lot depends on how well you’re able to care for yourself on your own. Some are going to be institutionalized all their lives because they can’t (care for themselves).”

Many, perhaps most, addicts never summon the will to get away from their addictions. They go to the programs and submit to court orders, but their hearts are never in it.

Jeannette Jarvis (not her real name), the mother of a meth-addicted adult son, doesn’t think her son will ever get over his addiction. “He’ll be doing great and he sabotages himself,” she says. “…When he’s been in counseling, and they get to the issue, and it gets too painful, then he’s done. Walks out the door and he’s done. So he’s never gotten the help he needs. And when you have issues like that, they are painful, but if you don’t deal with them, you stay broken the rest of your life. And you can’t live life being broken.”

Suzanne Dean / Messenger Photo
Two Narcotics Anonymous members share a hug.

How addicts succeed

Just as there are reasons why it is so hard for a meth addict to kick the drug, there are factors that contribute to success.

First, sources interviewed for this article agreed, addicts must be held accountable for their actions, not just legally, but to their family, friends and themselves.

Diana Headley (not her real name) relates how “the thing that helped me the most was being held accountable with the judge.”

Andrea Sparks (not her real name) tells how she had to go to jail before she could believe she could get off the drugs. “I wanted to stop before, but I didn’t know how to ask for help, because I didn’t want to feel weak.” When help came, she says, “It wasn’t rehab; it was jail…I thought I was going to die. But in there (in jail), I started thinking, ‘You know, I can do this.’”

Sparks found time in jail made her focus on where the problem started—herself. “I realized I had to put myself first, I realized the only way I could pull myself out of it was to work out why everything was happening the way it was. I was putting blame in all the wrong places.”

Marsha Hunt (not her real name) put it more succinctly. “It’s a demon I must fight every day.”

All of the county’s programs aim at getting the addict back into real life. “It’s recovery-oriented,” Martin, the counselor with the Drug Court program says. “Somehow they need to connect with family, or through religion with the community in some way. They need a recovery support system. Finding the support group can be the thing that makes a huge difference.”

Castro does have some unusual advice for some of her clients. “I know AA and NA say ‘Don’t move away. You’re running from your problems.’ And I say the opposite. ‘If this is where you are using and this is your daily life to use here, then you need to go somewhere else, as long as you have support there.”

“I mean, I love Sanpete County,” she says, “but for someone who has grown up here, has used their entire life here, this place is a trigger. Every time they drive down a road, every time they walk in a store, all the people they see, it’s all a trigger.”

Once out of jail or graduated from Drug Court, an addict’s support system can take various forms. The addict will need to find a job. According to Martin, a job may be the most important part of a support system because the person needs a way to support himself or herself and begin to have some personal pride again. One of the services the county probation office provides is setting up probationers with job services and vocational training.

Central Utah Counseling Center also hosts AA and NA meetings at its center in Ephraim. “The whole idea of having a sponsor (an identified mentor with AA or NA), boy, I wish everyone would buy into that relationship. To have a sponsor who checks in on them, that they can turn to when they are struggling, that would be really helpful.”

The LDS church is expanding its outreach to recovering addicts, Martin notes. “Last week at Drug Court, we had two sets of senior missionaries attend to support someone in recovery,” he said.

For some, performing service can fill social and emotional voids. “I got into service for my community, by donating time at the (LDS) humanitarian center,” Sparks says. “At first it was court ordered and then (I continued) because I enjoyed it so much. After an hour of giving service,…I got over myself and the itching desire to use, and became beneficial to my community (and) around people who loved me…”

Hunt, a recovering addict, says without a multifaceted support network, she never could have stayed clean. “I went to NA seven days a week. I went to church every Sunday, I went to anything and everything I thought would help, as long as it was structured. If it wasn’t for my support group, my parents, my church, my sponsor (and) a couple of people I met through NA, I don’t think I would’ve survived. I really don’t think I would‘ve made it.”

The importance of community

Kevin Daniels, the county attorney and a devoted family man, says his own family’s experience shows how addiction can be broken.

His grandfather grew up in Ephraim in a family of 13 children. The grandfather’s father died in his 40s. The children still at home had to support the family by hunting, raising a garden and working for other farmers.

Daniels believes that early trauma contributed to his grandfather becoming an alcoholic. “He was a hard worker but he struggled with alcohol,” Daniels says. “The reality is my dad and his siblings could have fallen into that cycle…So what you’ve got to do is break that cycle.

“My dad had five siblings. All five of them are college graduates. All five of them are very strong members of the community, have raised great families, are just phenomenal members of society, (have) just contributed in ways that sometimes blow my mind.

“The reason why those five broke the cycle was because they had members of the community step in, and especially members of the family. So, if we’re going to fix this in this community, then we need a buy-in from all members of the community. The community brings in those individuals who want to break away from addiction. We need to be their friends and be kind.”

Suzanne Dean / Messenger Photo
People recovering from addiction gather to chat following a Narcotics Anonymous meeting at the Central Utah Counseling Center in Ephraim. Social connection and support appear to be big components of recovery from methamphetamine addiction.

Sparks relates how important it was to her recovery to have understanding and compassion. “Who could understand me? That was my biggest fear when I got out of jail….Who can I talk to, where can I go, what am I going to do?” She says finding people on the outside who did listen, understand and not judge “was my biggest thing,.”

Headley says that being in her church choir has helped reduce her anxiety. “They’ve taken me in. And they’ve loved me through it,” she says. Being in the choir, she says, takes her focus off the depression and anxiety she frequently experiences. “Looking at those notes in the choir keeps me in the present moment and alleviates a lot of the stress and pressure.”

Having seen so many addicts go through her program and having observed how they have fared afterwards, Castro stresses how important is for the community to take addicts in.

“A clean addict is the best person you’ll ever know,” she says. “They’re the most honest, straight, direct people, people that you would trust forever, when they’re in their sobriety. I honestly think the people who would be there for me are recovering addicts.”

“I see the ones who leave here and don’t come back and are doing well. They say the reason they are doing so well is that someone took a chance on them.”

Follow-up:

A story of addiction and recovery

How meth led woman into murder case, prison

Published August 9, 2018

DRAPER— She sits and waits. In a couple of weeks, she will go in front of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to find out how much longer she must wait. She could be released soon, or it could be as long as 14 years. For now, all she can do besides wait is think about how she got here.

She is Allison Boudreaux, 52, a Sanpete County native and methamphetamine addict. Boudreaux is currently at the Utah Department of Corrections Timpanogos Correctional Facility for women in Draper.

She was sentenced to prison in November 2017 after she was found with her teenage daughter, both of them high on meth. At the time, she on probation for her part in the infamous Fullwood murders in Mt. Pleasant in 2011.

“Meth is the devil,” she says. Like many others, Boudreaux came from a family with addiction issues, issues that have been passed down to her own children.

Allison Dyches (her maiden name) was born in Mt. Pleasant in 1966. Her father worked at the turkey plant and as a sheep shearer. Her parents were deeply religious and raised her in a “strict Mormon family.”

But both of her grandfathers were alcoholics. Her paternal grandfather passed away from liver disease when she was 7. And her maternal grandfather sometimes passed out in public.

Boudreaux’s parents tried to warn her about the dangers of addiction. “If I had it to do over again, I would’ve listened to my parents,” she says.

Indeed, she never became much of a drinker, and eventually gave up alcohol altogether. But meth was another matter.

Boudreaux felt “held-in” by her parents and the LDS church and became a rebellious teenager. She says the first time she embarrassed her parents was when she was about 14. She met a boy, and decided to run away with him. He stole a neighbor’s car, and they drove away to California. They weren’t caught until they reached Barstow.

About a year later, she was standing outside the old North Sanpete High School in Mt. Pleasant smoking a cigarette. Her parents drove by, thought she was smoking marijuana, picked her up and took her to the police station.

After the chief of police and her father argued over who was going to take custody of her, her parents relented and took her home. On the way, Boudreaux tried to jump out of the moving car.

Boudreaux describes herself a “spoiled brat” during these years.

She didn’t finish North Sanpete High School. She only got through her junior year. When she was 17 or 18, she was married for the first time to a truck driver. She believes she met him in 1984 but says she’s not sure because her memory has been damaged by drug use. They stayed married for only one year.

Her second husband was a man named Randy Wayman. He was violent and once beat her badly with a set of nun chucks. Boudreaux did not stay married to him very long, either.

At 21, she married Ronny Boyer. They moved to Phoenix, Ariz. so he could attend school there. While he was at school, Boudreaux met Rudy Flores.

“This is where the drugs start,” she says. Flores introduced Boudreaux to cocaine first, then methamphetamine. She started having an affair with Flores.

Boudreaux eventually left her husband, moved in with Flores and stayed him for several years, moving from state to state and having two children with him. Besides using drugs, Flores was an alcoholic and was abusive to Boudreaux and her children. After they moved to Ogden, Boudreaux couldn’t take his abuse anymore and moved back to Sanpete County with her parents.

When Flores gave her meth for the first time, Boudreaux says she discovered just how much of an addictive personality and biology she had. “If it’s in front of me, I can’t say no,” she says. “When I used, I had no worries, I wasn’t stressed out.”

After she left Flores and returned to the county, Boudreaux got into criminal activity. She met a man at work who was also into drugs. She asked her sister to take her kids and started hanging out with “bad people.” She started going in and out of jail. “Once you’re in the system,” she says, “it’s so hard to get out.”

By 1999, she had married again to Brett Boudreaux. He was an old acquaintance from her high school days, and they met at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Even though they were both trying to recover from addiction, Boudreaux remembers his way of romancing her was to show up with “roses and meth” one night.

Still, they managed to put the drugs aside for some time. They moved in together, both got jobs, and she had another child, a daughter.

Then Boudreaux found out that her husband was cheating on her. So, as in the past when she encountered a stressful situation, she turned to meth. And once again her life unraveled.

She and Brett argued over his cheating. He turned abusive. She kicked him out of the house even though he told her he still wanted to be with her. And sometimes when she was high, she let him back in.

In 2011, Brett called Allison and asked her if a friend of his could crash at her house in Moroni for a while. Allison agreed. The friend was named Logan McFarland. “That’s when my life was ruined,” Boudreaux says.

McFarland got Boudreaux and Angela Atwood, another drug addict, involved in thievery to get money for drugs.

One day, while Boudreaux and Atwood distracted a Mt. Pleasant home owner in the yard of her home, McFarland burglarized her house, taking guns among other items. Investigators never recovered the murder weapon in the Fullwood case. But there seemed to be a good probability it was one of the stolen guns.

Allison Boudreaux at her father’s gravesite in Mt. Pleasant in 2015, during a period of sobriety.

“Don’t do it! Talk to someone, go to a (12-step) meeting, do something else. It will be the worst mistake of your life. Because if you use meth (once), it won’t be the last time you use.”

—Advice from Allison Boudreaux to anyone considering using meth

It was Boudreaux and Atwood who dropped McFarland off on foot in Mt. Pleasant later the same evening with the expectation he would burglarize another house. That was the night he ended up shooting and killing the Fullwoods in their home.

Without knowing anyone had been killed, Boudreaux and her son, Damien Flores, later drove from Moroni to Mt. Pleasant, picked up McFarland, and drove him back to Boudreaux’s home in Moroni.

Boudreaux and Damian Flores (who is now in the Sanpete County Jail, dealing with addiction issues of his own), agreed to testify against McFarland and received jail sentences for rather than the prison sentences requested by the county attorney for their roles in the murders.

 But a few months later, Boudreaux was arrested on new drug charges. Those were the charges that landed her in prison.

“You can choose to do nothing, or you can better yourself” while in prison, Boudreaux says. She has tried to better herself.

She has started attending LDS services again and looks forward to being able to be sealed to her mother in the temple. She has finished a substance abuse treatment program in prison and earned a high school diploma.

She looks forward to coming home but says she also dreads it. She wants to be around her family again and “get to know my grandchild.” But she knows she can’t be around anyone who uses drugs. And her son and teenage daughter are both addicts.

“Meth is evil,” she says, “and so many people in Sanpete use. I just can’t be around those people.”

When asked what she would say to someone who is considering trying meth for the first time, she said, “Don’t do it! Talk to someone, go to a (12-step) meeting, do something else. It will be the worst mistake of your life. Because if you use meth (once), it won’t be the last time you use.”

If you are already an addict, “go to counseling, talk to someone, go to a meeting,” she says. “You can always get better, there’s always help. Don’t be scared to ask.”

While Boudreaux waits for the decision of the parole board, she has a lot to think about and a lot of plans to make.