KOTA News Extra: The face of meth - KOTA Territory News

KOTA News Extra: The face of meth

With more methamphetamine labs uncovered and an alarming increase in arrests, meth is on the rise in South Dakota.

Melissa Smith tidies up her apartment. This is the first time in her life she has had a place of her own.
Everything is good for Smith right now, but it wasn't always like this.

"I've struggled with addiction since I was 16. I'm 39 years old," said Smith

Every day when she looks in the mirror, her scars are reminders of her dark past. Most recently Smith was struggling with meth and heroin addiction. She was in and out of prison, jail and rehab, and last year she thought she wouldn't put herself in that position again.

"Then in June 2013 i was arrested here for possession of a controlled
substance, which was meth and that was it. I thought I was done with getting myself locked up and going to jail. And when that happened again. I was like this is it," said Smith.

She then started drug court and has been clean for almost a year. Mark Nelson, a counselor at Compass Point, runs an intensive outpatient program and an after care group for Drug Court clients.

"Basically we develop coping skills and strategies to prevent relapse and ways to stay sober," said Nelson.

He says he sees many meth cases.

"About half of my cases I deal with meth addiction," said Nelson.

People who make meth can make it in small spaces. The trunk of a car would be enough room for a meth lab. In South Dakota, there were 39 meth labs discovered in 2013 compared to 27 the year before.

Nelson says the people he sees who end up kicking their drug addiction take certain steps.

"They distance themselves from the people they were using with. They develop a lifestyle change. Which I mean by that, changing their behavior, their thoughts, feeling, and attitudes in relation to drugs," said Nelson.

Smith says she always believed in herself.

"I never gave up hope that one day I would be able to come out of it."

She says at times it can be hard.

"Try not to judge somebody in recovery because it is a fight. We are survivors. There is so much determination. This had been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life."

Smith is happy and currently looking for a job.

"As long as I stay clean and sober. It just seems like everything else falls into place."

And for people struggling with addiction, Smith says there is hope.

"I'm living proof that it can be done," said Smith.

The Pennington County Sheriff's Department reported a more than 200 percent increase in meth arrests from 2012 to 2013.

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