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'Meth math' looks bad for Wyoming

Aug 28, 2013 - By Chris Peck

Lecturing drug addicts is about as successful as talking to your dog -- they may listen, but like Fido, they can't understand.

When Timothy Pitt first made the front page of The Ranger, it wasn't for being a Boy Scout.

No, Pitt made the paper as a defendant in a meth drug ring. He was up to his neck in using and dealing meth -- along with eight other people in and around Fremont County -- or so prosecutors allege.

He's been on page 1 a few more times since then, including just yesterday, when it was announced that his alleged crimes were so big that they were being taken over by federal prosecutors.

Why?

What's the allure of a drug so lethal, addictive, and damaging that many meth users literally rot away as they use -- their teeth falling out, sores all over their bodies, and rapid breakdowns of muscle and bone?

This to get high?

Lecturing drug addicts is about as successful as talking to your dog.

They may listen, but like Fido, they can't understand.

Certainly Tim Pitt didn't appear to listen. His new federal charges are stepped up from his original charge -- one count of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine -- punishable by up to 20 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. He's facing a worse predicament now that the feds are in charge, but in all likelihood, Pitt already has cost Fremont County far more than whatever he might be sentenced to.

Let's do some meth math.

If the charges stick, Pitt will be convicted along with eight other people for using and dealing meth.

A meth habit runs about $8,000 a year. Most meth addicts are addicted for at least three years before they die, are jailed, or rarely, go into rehab and kick the habit.

Think about the costs of that. A cool $8,000 a year for a meth habit, that runs an average of 3 years ( $24,000) and in this case involves nine people. That works out to $216,000 in meth expenses for these defendants.

But this meth math doesn't factor in other costs to society such as the lack of any sales tax, or the lack of any multiplier effect from dollars not circulated in the economy, nor any accounting the hundreds of lost productive hours that could have been spent doing something besides cooking meth and getting high.

But that's just the start of what meth heads costs Fremont County.

There is the cost of investigating these drug crimes. The costs of tracking down Pitt and his band. The costs of arresting, jailing, and charging Pitt and cronies with crimes. And then there are the costs, about to unfold, of prosecuting his case -- and getting Pitt an attorney to try to defend him.

And, unfortunately in this case, there may be delays and further legal costs because prosecutors and law enforcement might be ruled by a judge to have been over zealous in their wire-tapping of Pitt's phones. And that's an intangible but real cost to society in terms of eroded civil liberties or diminished trust in the judgment of law enforcement.

Add it all up, and what have Tim Pitt and his meth habit done to Fremont County?

The anti-meth website KCI.org estimates a single meth addict costs society about $57,000 a year.

Multiply that $57,000 a year by nine and this group probably has cost the county and its economy at least $513,000. And that's for one year.

But these are just the dollars. The lives shattered by this drug add to the toll.

Broken families, ruined relationships, a loss of not just your teeth and your muscles, but your very ability to function in this world.

And the headlines aren't promising in terms of meth in Wyoming.

Timothy Pitt and his band of nine made headlines in Riverton in the same month that four Laramie residents were busted for meth and two more meth heads were busted outside of Powell when police officers found them floating in a creek near Meeteetse.

Meth harms people, communities, and states.

By the time the meth addicts end up in custody, their cost to society is measured in six digits.

If you see signs of meth, if yo worry that a loved one or friend is using, intervene.

Call the police. Call a doctor. Confront the user.

It will be hard.

But not as hard as doing nothing until it's too late.

One contact for help with meth: the non-profit Drug Rehab hotline: 888-491-5510.

Another resource: Crystalmeth Anonymous on the Web.

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