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Meth and mental health

by REED PERRY
Staff Writer | August 7, 2020 1:06 AM

Drug use can amplify psychological problems in users, police find

Two separate arrests on Sunday underscore the dangers of meth use and how the psychological devastation it causes complicates community policing.

In one case, police were dispatched on a “welfare check” in Post Falls, the other to a threatening man outside a Rathdrum grocery store. Both men were alleged to be high on meth, and both were displaying dangerous, incoherent behavior, police said.

In Rathdrum, police responded to reports of an argumentative and threatening man in Super 1. Responding officers made contact with Wayne Seymour, 43, of Washington, on the side of the road. Seymour had allegedly driven from Coeur d’Alene, where he had been drinking, and then got in a fight with his girlfriend, who was hiding in the office of the grocery store, police said.

Officers report Seymour smelled of alcohol, was carrying alcoholic drinks, grinding his teeth and yelling erratically. Seymour believed he was in Spokane and was babbling incoherently, so they decided to detain him in the back of the patrol car. Seymour then began screaming and kicking the inside of the car, destroying the plexiglass windows, police said.

After being medically cleared, police decided he would be a danger to himself and others if he was released so they put him in a “detox hold,” detaining him at the Public Safety Building until he sobered up. During booking, meth and paraphernalia were allegedly recovered.

In Post Falls, police responded to reports of a man talking to himself, dancing around and yelling in a parking lot. He tried to drive away at a high rate of speed when police arrived, but then pulled over.

Police allege that Christopher Stoddard, of Washington, was jittery and speaking in disjointed sentences. He then admitted to being high on meth and said he hadn’t slept “in a long time,” according to the official complaint.

During a search, officers found several syringes and tourniquets, as well as heroin and methamphetamine.

Daily police logs reveal that calls like this, where an individual has lost touch with reality and has become a public concern, are a constant event for law enforcement. Police are then put in the position of both drug enforcement and psychiatric outreach as they try to determine what’s going on.

Meth causes paranoia, agitation, violence, delusions and chronic psychiatric disorders.

In Coeur d’Alene, Drug Court and Mental Health Court are offered for those with substance abuse and co-occurring psychiatric disorders.

“Ninety-nine percent of our participants have substance abuse disorders,” said Mary Wolfinger, coordinator for the Kootenai County Mental Health Court. “They have major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It can be difficult to differentiate if the voices and hallucinations they have are from long-term meth use or an existing mental issue.”

Mental Health Court offers a special kind of supervision.

“It’s an extremely intensive 18-month program,” said Wolfinger. “A participant is typically referred to us by their attorney or a probation officer. They are typically felons with severe persistent mental illness. They are post-adjudication, so they enter the program as part of court supervision. And they are screened by clinicians so we can find the best care for them.”

Wolfinger described how in some cases, patients who were thought to be schizophrenic and have remained meth-free for a year return to some level of mental stability. That’s due to the similarity between meth psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia.

“We drug test a lot and sobreity is an important part of mental health,” she said. “Our criteria is to evaluate for those who have problems functioning in society. They need a higher level of support to function.”

According to Methamphetamine Psychosis: Epidemiology and Management, a peer-reviewed study by Dr. Larissa Mooney, meth causes psychotic episodes in approximately 40 percent of its users.

“In a subset of individuals, psychosis can recur and persist and may be difficult to distinguish from a primary psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia,” said the study.

According to Idaho Meth Project, 52 percent of Idaho inmates attribute meth use to their incarceration.

Programs like Mental Health Court are designed to improve outcomes and reduce recidivism by using medications, counseling, and the Assertive Community Treatment team, which maintains daily contact with participants.