BURLEY – Almost one week to the day, Christopher James Paskett, age 19, is yet again facing meth related charges.
Although national and state data indicates that meth use among teens is down, it seems that at a local level the highly addictive drug may still be prevalent.
Methamphetamine use among teens has reportedly dropped significantly in recent years, according to data revealed by the 2009 Monitoring the Future survey. The number of high school seniors reporting past-year use is now only at 1.2 percent, which is the lowest since questions about methamphetamine were added to the survey in 1999; at that time, it was reported at 4.7 percent. Lifetime use among 8th graders was reported at 1.6 percent in 2009, down significantly from 2.3 percent in 2008. In addition, the proportion of 10th graders reporting that crystal methamphetamine was easy to obtain has dropped to 14 percent, down from 19.5 percent 5 years ago.
In Idaho, the data is even more promising. A June 2010 data report released by the CDC showed that the use of meth by teens in Idaho had decreased by 52 percent, from 6.3 percent in 2007 (significantly above the national average) to 3.1 percent in 2009.
But is the decline as pronounced at a local level? Cassia County Sheriff Randy Kidd, who is passionate about drug education and prevention, feels that progress is being made. “I believe there has been some improvement and reduction in teen use. The meth project is a good program. We still have a large meth problem, but the education and enforcement being done is having a positive effect,” said Kidd.
Along with attention toward education to eliminate first time users, attention is being made toward discovering effective treatment methods for those already addicted. Cassia and Minidoka County use a mixture of out-patient and in-patient methods. Many convicted of meth related crimes are awarded treatment programs as opposed to jail time.
Last year, then 18 year old Paskett was given a chance to get help for his drug problem and was awarded drug court with a chance to clear his criminal record in December of 2010. Paskett failed to appear to a court hearing in the very same month and an arrest warrant was issued with a $75,000 bond.
Paskett was located and arrested when he was spotted at a local convenience store where he denied being Christopher Paskett. He was also wanted for questioning regarding a burglary investigation. In March 2011 Paskett was found guilty on multiple charges of separate instances of Felony drug related possession charges and was convicted for Felony Burglary.
Court records indicate the young man entered into a plea bargain and his four to ten year prison sentence was held off on the condition that Paskett participate in an in-patient drug treatment program. On June 23, 2011 Paskett entered into the correctional alternative placement program (CAPP) and, after completing the program several months later, he was awarded ten years supervised probation as an alternative to prison.
Last week police arrested Paskett after he was located hiding in a basement of a Burley home.
According to Deputy Ty Cahoon, he was out with Felony Probation on their way to arrest Paskett at his home on West 55 North on a discretionary order to serve ten days of jail time for a probation violation when, ironically, they spotted Paskett driving at Main and Overland.
Cahoon reported that he followed Paskett to where he located the vehicle, now parked across from the alley at a house on the 1300 block of Miller Avenue. After some time and repeated knocking, a man answered the door at the home and confirmed that Paskett was inside. The arrest record indicates the man that answered the door did not reside at the home.
Paskett would not come out of hiding even though the deputy called out to him multiple times. Cahoon called for back up, and he and another deputy searched the home. Eventually, Paskett was located in the basement of the home, hiding in a crawl space. Allegedly a spoon with white residue and 0.7 grams of methamphetamine were found on Paskett. Paskett would not answer any questions about his meth use but according to the arrest report, Paskett did tell Deputy Cahoon that the spoon was not his and he had found it on the basement stairs on his way down and had put it in his pocket.
Paskett was taken into custody and placed in jail to serve the ten days for the original warrant service. He is now facing multiple new charges which include Felony Possession of Controlled Substance (Methamphetamine), Drug Paraphernalia - Use or Possess With Intent to Use, and Resisting or Obstructing Officers. Paskett is being held on $75,000 bond and has entered a plea of not guilty to all charges. He is being represented by a public defender.
While his young age indicates that treatment could be successful, methamphetamine is a hard drug to recover from. Data suggests that the drug, which provides a sense of euphoria to the user, can cause the user to become addicted after only one use.
According to Richard Rawson, executive director of a non-profit addiction research organization called the Matrix Institute, recovery from meth addiction is possible. Rawson reports that meth addiction gained a reputation as being untreatable when the drug began to spread into small communities in the Midwest. “These rural areas had not been very affected by cocaine or heroin so when they had to start dealing with meth users they had no idea what to do with them,” said Rawson.
Douglas Anglin, director of the UCLA Drug Abuse Research Center and co-principal investigator of the Methamphetamine Treatment Project, a group that studies addiction therapies, said: “Patients were coming in psychotic, so you started hearing these horror stories that meth was untreatable. For those of us who’ve been dealing with heroin and crack users, it was more manageable.” Though not impossible, meth addiction is a difficult disorder to treat, according to Anglin. “There’s not severe physical withdrawal with methamphetamine, but rather a feeling of anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure, that can last for months and which leads to a lot of relapse at six months,” he said. The anhedonia appears to correspond with the period when the brain is recovering and producing abnormally low levels of dopamine.
“When you think of treatment of drugs like methamphetamine, you have to think of it like fixing a broken leg — treatment provides a structure to allow their brain chemistry to return to normal. Their brain is out of tune, it’s not working very well, and it takes a while to recover,” Rawson said.
“Treatment of meth addiction appears approximately equal to cocaine treatment. Treatment is about 50 percent to 60 percent drug-free at the end of one year.” That’s superior to recovery after behavioral therapy for heroin addiction (without the use of methadone), but not as good as recovery from alcoholism, according to Rawson.
Paskett will have a preliminary hearing tomorrow, January 13th, at 9:00 am in Cassia County Magistrate Court.