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UPDATE: Treatment remains a problem as meth use sky rockets

Posted: Updated:
6:36 p.m.

If there's one thing Bill Harris knows it's addiction.

What it's like, how it can impact a person and how to beat it.

"I came out of treatment in Baltimore for the third time and went to a halfway house," Harris said. "I went back to school, got my certification and became a substance abuse counselor."

Over the last 25 years Harris has helped others with their addictions.

Today he does so at Mount Regis in Salem.

He deals with a wide range of addictions, from alcohol to drugs like methamphetamines and heroin.

Those dangerous drugs are becoming much more common in our area.

Take meth as an example.

Virginia had 28 busts in 2009.

That number could reach 600 in 2014, with the majority in Southwest Virginia.

While the spike in abuse is a serious problem, so is the number of people getting treatment.

"If we have 27 patients, maybe three of those we would consider their primary diagnosis methamphetamine," Harris said. "(It's) a very low number."

Meth addiction often requires intense in-patient treatment, an expensive option for users of a drug that is often referred to as a poor man's cocaine by police.

But it's not just rehab facilities where the numbers are low.

Roanoke's drug court, which offers offenders an alternative to jail through intense rehab, education and community service, has seen very little change despite the growing problem.

Out of the 137 offenders in the drug court program, only 10 percent list meth as their preferred drug of choice.

It's a problem drug court Senior Probation and Parole Officer Jessica Kyle expects will get worse in the coming months and years as the number of busts continue to rise.

"We're going to keep doing things exactly as we are," Kyle said. "It is a very difficult drug to try and overcome, but we're familiar with it and we are working with some people that (deal) with it."

Harris said it can take months or even years to reduce chemical dependency.

But the real test comes after treatment, when a person is on their own.

"All those stresses when they leave treatment are still there," he said. "Their coping skills that they used for so long is generally what they fall right back into."

An unfortunate reality Harris hopes he can eventually teach more patients to avoid, as the meth problem continues to grow.

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Methamphetamine addiction remains a big issue in Southwest Virginia.

Now it's raising the question if many users are getting the proper treatment.

Meth busts statewide have exploded since 2009, going from 28 to more than 400 last year.

The majority of those busts happened in Southwest Virginia.

Despite the rise, treatment centers are not seeing more patients.

Only 11 percent of the patients receiving intense treatment at Mount Regis Center in Salem list meth as their drug of choice.

The numbers are also low in Roanoke's drug court.

"If you're using methamphetamine for 3, 4, 5, 10 years it takes a while for that brain to start healing," said Bill Harris, a counselor at Mount Regis.

Coming up tonight on WSLS 10 at 11, we dig deeper into the problem and see why the number of arrests don't match the people receiving treatment.

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