Methamphetamine.It ruins lives. It destroys marriages. It creates a vast amount of criminal activity ‘“ including murder.Part 1 of a multi-part series.Meth is thought to be the primary factor in the Jan. 30 shooting death here of Charles Graves Adams. One source told The Herald-Gazette the shooting arose out of an argument over the quality of meth exchanged between the shooter and the victim in that case.Local law enforcement officials are in unanimous agreement meth is a big problem here and is readily available to users.’The problem is huge. It recognizes no racial, social or age barriers. Lamar County is no exception. It is here, too,’ noted sheriff Larry Waller.’The meth problem has grown. The best way to combat it is to investigate, arrest and prosecute local distributors. That work is long and sordid,’ added district attorney Richard Milam.A Big Problem in Lamar’Meth is a big problem and its addiction level is very high,’ noted Allen McWhorter, assistant commander of the Narcotics Task Force.Rick McCreary, who commanded the investigations division under former sheriff Joe Buice, is more blunt.’Meth is an extremely serious problem in Lamar County. It’s coming in from Clayton, Spalding and Upson counties,’ he said.Transients and construction workers in Lamar County temporarily report to law enforcement meth is readily available on what amounts to the local bar scene.’It’s easy to get. A stranger here would not have to look very hard or very long to find it,’ McCreary added.Although a huge meth lab was busted on Ramah Church Road here some years ago, such labs are rare now.’We now see far fewer cases of locals attempting to manufacture meth. This can be traced to a state law that limits access to large amounts of pseudoephedrine drugs by consumers. However, the demand for the drug is being met by meth smuggled in from Mexico. Atlanta is a major hub of this trade,’ Milam said.The law Milam referenced is the reason drug store shoppers have to provide a photo ID and sign for what used to be over the counter cold and sinus medications.Those who do use pseudoephedrine to make meth usually do so in small, mobile labs and generally make just enough to supply themselves. It is not hard to learn the manufacturing process.’Instructions and recipes are easy to find on the internet,’ McCreary said.Relational DestructionAlthough it is easy to make, meth is not easy on the user or his or her family.’I have seen how it impacts family members and friends. Children are affected the most. Housekeep-ing, hygiene and food preparation are affected in the home. We have executed search warrants at houses and found small children crawling around on the floor with used syringes, smoke pipes and open bags of meth or meth residue,’ McWhorter said.McCreary said parents should be vigilant because teenagers have easy access to the devastating drug.’Parents should be concerned. They need to look for the warning signs,’ he said. Those are loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, a change in sleeping habits, open sores and rotting teeth.As big a factor as meth is in ruining lives and families, it also leads to countless other crimes ‘“ most of them less serious than the Adams murder. McWhorter reported meth drives crimes like shoplifting, burglary, metal thefts and domestic violence.McCreary agrees. ‘People will steal just about anything to get $30-$40 to feed their habits,’ he said.Meth is not new. Its use is just more widespread than ever.History of the DrugSheriff Waller said street meth was originally a west coast drug made and distributed by biker gangs like the Hell’s Angels.’It was used as a stimulant by American, Japanese and German troops in World War II. One method of production is still referred to as the ‘˜Nazi method,” Waller said.There is controversy over the use of confidential informants who are a major weapon in the war on meth.’It’s not hard to develop informants. There is no shortage of people out there who are willing to talk to have charges against them reduced or dismissed,’ McCreary said.’Officers have to gather information from local drug users to find out who is selling drugs. The use of informants is not favored by many citizens because officers have to use their discretion to decide who to prosecute and who to use for informants,’ Milam added.Once information is developed, the hard work remains.’Surveillance and getting warrants for searches is very time consuming,’ McCreary said.ProsecutionProsecution is also an issue, at least for McWhorter. He thinks dealers should be dealt with more harshly.’I have had several cases where I arrested dealers with substantial amounts of meth who got lighter sentences because it was their first offense,’ the veteran drug investigator reported.A key component in the battle against this killer drug is education. To that end, a meth summit similar to those held in other drug ravaged communities is on the horizon. The working date is June 2.’I discussed the idea for such a summit with Bill Truby, Peter Banks and Chuck Keadle. We will have more information forthcoming on it soon,’ Waller concluded.Next week: Andrew Odom reports on the cost to Georgia in the war on meth.