Drug culture changing life in the U.P.

Change is inevitable and for the most part results in a better life for everyone. The Upper Peninsula is no exception to change. One aspect of life in the U.P. seems to be changing in the U.P. in recent years – and the change is not welcome.

The growing problem of drug use in the U.P. was brought into focus again last week in the Iron River area when a youngster playing in a playground came into contact with material used to manufacture methamphetamine. The liquid the child found was in a burst pop bottle on the playground. Luckily, the child wasn’t hurt. What is even more disturbing is police found four additional containers that were used in meth production at another nearby park.

No one can deny that there is a drug problem in the U.P. The signs, however, are becoming more and more obvious. Just take a look in the Police Log – a list of calls responded to by Escanaba Public safety officers – that is regularly published in this paper. Reports to police of syringes being found on sidewalks, yards and other public places are not rare. In fact, they are becoming more and more common.

Finding meth chemicals on playgrounds and syringes in yards – sounds like something you would find in the big city, not the rural Upper Peninsula. This is the sort of thing many people move to the U.P. to get away from.

Last week’s playground discovery prompted the Michigan State Police and the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team to issue a warning to the public to use caution when they find items dumped in recreational areas, trash cans, roadsides – and yes – playgrounds. These items – the components used to manufacture methamphetamine – can be extremely dangerous. They can be highly explosive, flammable or burn the skin under the right circumstances.

Some of those components are:

– Plastic soda bottles with a light brown or pink sludge in it

– Solvents such as paint thinner or gas line deicer

– Lithium batteries – pipe cutters or pliers are used to break open the batteries and extract the lithium metal strips.

– Lye – drain cleaner

Like the rest of the country, the Upper Peninsula is combating a drug problem. Locally and in the rest of the U.P., there is a collective effort to combat the problem.

Law enforcement, schools, the medical community, the courts and other agencies and groups have combined their efforts and are taking a stand. They are fighting a big problem – one that won’t be solved overnight. Give them your support.

Times are changing.

It’s sad. It used to be that the biggest hazard on the playground was the occasional piece of broken glass.