Experts discuss ways to combat growing drug problem - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Experts discuss ways to combat growing drug problem

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CARTERVILLE (WSIL) -- Hundreds of health, education, and law enforcement professionals gathered at John A. Logan College Wednesday to discuss drug trends in southern Illinois. 

Experts say for more than a decade, methamphetamine has been a hot commodity among Southern Illinois drug users.

Jonathan Edwards overseas the drug task force agencies throughout the state and says suppliers have taken note, "Drug trafficking organizations have recognized that and they continue to push large amounts of crystal meth here in southern Illinois." 

Jefferson County Judge Jo Beth Weber says meth use in her county has skyrocketed in the past six months, "Monday morning I did video court and I had nine people. And eight of them were people who had methamphetamine possession." 

Judge Weber sat on a panel at the Southern Illinois Drug Awareness Conference to answer questions from police, and those working in health and education. She says drug court is better than prison. Recovering addicts are tested often, required to get a job, and have intense accountability-based probation. 

"As a judge, I feel like it's my responsibility when people come into court that I don't just send them away and not try to do something to help get them on the right path," said Weber. 

A'nna Jurich, the Executive Director for Gateway in Carbondale, says not only is meth-use becoming more common, but the drug is different, "We are seeing a difference in the type of meth and the withdrawal symptoms that people are having when they come into treatment. We are seeing much more anxiety, higher level of craving, more likelihood of leaving treatment than we did in the past." 

Edwards says this conference puts the people on the front lines of combating drug abuse in one place to exchange ideas. 

"From an awareness standpoint, this is like gold. We don't, as law enforcement, necessarily have an opportunity to talk with folks from a lot of these disciplines on a regular basis," said Edwards. 

This was the 16th year for the Southern Illinois Drug Awareness Conference.

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