Hardened police officers are stunned at the ravages of methamphetamines. It is a drug that seems to enslave users upon their first experience. It eventually ravages the body.

Meth is the topic of The Daily Astorian's special three-part series that concludes Friday. We chose to devote considerable reporting resources and time to this project because of what we heard from readers, from police officers and from judges.

The title of our series "The Drug Next Door" was chosen deliberately to emphasize how thoroughly meth has penetrated Clatsop County. There is not a place, an income or social strata that is immune to its devastation.

How did we get here? How did we arrive at the place where a synthetic drug that's made in kitchens is taking over lives, ruining families and tearing the social fabric of communities?

Police and prosecutors will tell you that marijuana use is the best predictor that someone is poised to try meth. We do not doubt their veracity. But it is also worth noting that we live in post-60s America.

There was a time when the 1960s were an easy answer to the question of where all sorts of social maladies came from: from impoverished single-parent households to rampant drug use. That theorem was well articulated in a 1993 Wall Street Journal editorial titled "No Guardrails." The gist was that social elites set a bad example in the 1960s and 1970s. It was an example the less-than-rich could ill afford to imitate.

Meth moves us well into a post-60s world. Unlike marijuana or even cocaine, you will not see meth portrayed as "cool" in any film. It is the ultimate rot-gut drug. It is an express elevator to the cellar.

The Clatsop County Commission has commendably made meth its top priority. The county's entire criminal justice establishment appears to be aligned to fight meth's spread.

While we agree that it's essential to shut down dealers and wage a constant initiative of suppression, we should be realistic about the relentlessness of the drug marketplace. Longtime urban police chief Joseph D. McNamara described his experience in the federal drug wars in a letter published by The Wall Street Journal June 29. "No matter how many arrests local police made for drug use and sale, the flow of drugs into the country never lessened," wrote McNamara.

The truth of McNamara's observation emphasizes the importance of education and awareness through the schools and well beyond, because meth will always be there. Even the well-fed and well-educated middle aged have become willing experimenters and meth's slaves.

We must talk about meth and what it is doing to lives in Clatsop County. If we have not become too cynical, we should be very alarmed at what we're seeing.

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