October 12, 2005
By GREGORY SEAY, Courant Staff Writer
David Parnell once personified the worst of methamphetamine addiction.
High on the stimulant, he mentally and physically abused his second wife and
tormented their children. Paranoia led Parnell to shoot holes in the walls
of his home and to stalk his postal carrier with a gun, thinking the mailman
was an undercover agent.
Hopeless from a 23-year drug addiction that began with marijuana, Parnell
blew his face apart with a rifle.
Rather than ending his life, the shot put him on the road to recovery and
launched his personal crusade to end the nationwide meth problem, one that
Parnell, 38, a former drug dealer from Martin, Tenn., shared his testimony
Tuesday in Hartford with a panel of state officials from law and drug
enforcement and treatment, environmental protection and public health and
The drug is making inroads into the state, according to a three-year survey
by the Hispanic Health Council released Tuesday at the symposium. The
Hartford-based council's study found that meth availability and abuse is
growing in Hartford and suburbs such as Glastonbury and West Hartford.
"If they get ahead of it now, they'll never end up like Tennessee, in the
top five for manufacture of methamphetamine," Parnell said. "They talk that
you've already found four labs. I really believe that if they find one,
they've missed 10."
Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano moderated the two-hour symposium
at the Legislative Office Building to educate state officials about the meth
threat and to consider ways to confront it.
Morano and other state officials agreed that the best weapon against meth
would be a coordinated effort centered on arrests, prison time, prevention
and treatment. Also, state officials said, changes in public policy should
Foremost, Morano said, "is limiting the precursor ingredients - the
Morano gave a slide show depicting the drop in meth lab seizures in
Oklahoma, Iowa and Tennessee after those states enacted laws banning
over-the-counter sales of cold remedies containing the ingredient that gets
meth users high. Thirty-seven states now limit retail sales of
pseudoephedrine. Connecticut failed last year to adopt a similar proposal.
"If we can control that, we can control one of the key collateral problems,"
Morano and his committee of agencies - including the departments of public
safety, public health, environmental protection, consumer protection, mental
health and addiction services, children and families and the state child
advocate - will formulate a list of recommendations.
The recommendations will be presented to Gov. M. Jodi Rell by early
November, he said.
Evidence is mounting that Connecticut's encounters with meth are increasing.
Aside from the bust of two East Hampton meth labs and one in New Fairfield
this year, the Hispanic Health Council survey has found use growing in the
The health council, with funding from the federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, tracked a diverse population of about 240 drug users
annually on Hartford streets, starting in 2003. Based on ongoing interviews
with participants and other sources, meth use is growing and the drug is
easier to get, said Merrill Singer, the survey's chief investigator.
Less than a year ago, users reported meth was hard to get in Hartford,
requiring a trip to New Haven or New York City, Singer said. In recent
months, meth users say, it "would only take one phone call" or a visit to a
Hartford home or club to score the drug, he said.
Moreover, respondents claimed they could get meth in some of the city's
suburbs, namely West Hartford and Glastonbury. One sign that there is a gap
between demand and availability is that users say the street price of meth
New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz said Tuesday's session was an
eye-opener, and that he will share what he learned with his patrol and
narcotics commanders and fellow police chiefs. He said he was encouraged
that the meth problem is not viewed solely as a law enforcement issue, but
as a public-health threat.
"This is dynamite in more ways than one," Ortiz said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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