Special Report: Making it After Meth Part I

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It's one of the most addictive drugs in the world, crystal meth. It's one of the most common and deadly drugs here in Northwest Florida. It destroys the lives of those who try it, who say after a few hits they're hooked.

"Everyone was doing it and it was cheaper and the people around me were not what you would typically think of as a 'meth head' so it made it seem less scary I guess," said Daphne.

Most people think of drugs as an urban problem. Cocaine in Miami, ecstasy in New York, acid in San Francisco, but methamphetamine is not a rich man's drug. It's being consumed by working class people, and can be made in your own backyard.

"It's become a huge problem that no one talks about and everyone's doing," said Daphne, a recovering meth addict.

It's something the Bay County Sheriff's Office battles. In 2003, Sheriff Frank McKeithen created a methamphetamine drug unit to crack down on the problem. Bay County became a state leader in shutting down meth labs.

"We saw a transition probably four or five years ago to the one pop method or shake and bake method where meth was then being manufactured in a Gatorade bottle or a soda bottle," said Major Tommy Ford. "So it went from that elaborate lab set up to where they could manufacture smaller quantities but in these one pop method or just in a soda bottle.

"What we're seeing right now is the ice form and it comes from across the southwest border, and what we're seeing is when somebody here that's a dealer, or finds a source of supply where that person travels to them with quantities of methamphetamine, we see an increase in the availability on the streets until we're able to identify that person and their source, take them off the streets, and then we'll see our incidents involving meth will kind of calm down for a while so it's just a cycle."

This former meth addict does not want to be identified. For this story, we'll call her Daphne. She grew up in Bay County, and took her first hit, when she was 18.

"It's like being super awake and on top of the clouds and you have this willpower to get things done and I felt like I was always getting things accomplished but in reality we weren't getting much accomplished. You'd do things halfway, then quit, and then go do another thing."

Daphne and her boyfriend would spend at least $300 a week on meth.

"We counted out his child's piggy bank to afford a bag," said Daphne. "That's the things that meth will turn you into to. Doing things that you don't even really realize are bad. Later on, you look back and you're like, I can't believe I did that."

Not only was Daphne drowning in addiction, she was also stuck in an abusive relationship.

"The violence increased 100 percent. I was getting beat up four to five times a day and I was okay with it."

After a year of addiction, she got pregnant. Her unborn child inspired her to pull her life together.

"I went from going where I'd work two weeks and switch jobs to having an actual career. I don't even have a job anymore I have a career. I'm working on owning a house, I own my car. I have a bank account that's never under $1,000. It's just the hard things that I never imagined possible back then."

Daphne stopped using meth when she got pregnant and her son was born with no adverse effects. Shes considers herself one of the lucky ones. In part of two of our special report: Making it After Meth, we'll introduce you to Jay Strickland, who spent years battling his addiction, was arrested and lost everything before he changed his life.