The suicide death of Daniel David Carver holds an important lesson for all in Northwest Colorado.
Carver was a methamphetamine addict, his family says. Early in the morning Feb. 7, he shot himself and died a few hours later. An autopsy showed marijuana, amphetamines and alcohol were in his system.
Carver's suicide came just a week after the 19-year-old had to be subdued by police after going on an intoxicated rampage in an Oak Creek convenience store. Eugene Germain, Carver's grandfather and guardian since he was 4, said that methamphetamine turned a happy-go-lucky youth into an angry, paranoid young man who scared his own family so much that Germain said he slept with a gun.
Germain loved his grandson. He tried to get him help. And after Carver killed himself, he spoke out about Carver's torment in hopes of sending a message to others.
It's a message that should be heeded.
Illegal drugs have been a scourge on our society for generations. Daniel Carver is not the first person to lose his life to substance abuse. But the rise in methamphetamine abuse, particularly in rural areas, is well-documented and alarming. For that reason, it is critical that as a community, we do as Germain has urged and become educated about this drug and be vigilant in our efforts to prevent its spread.
Methamphetamine is easy to manufacture using over-the-counter medications and commonly purchased chemicals. Many of the chemicals are found in fertilizers used on farms and ranches. That and the popularity of using barns in isolated areas as meth labs has fueled the spread of meth in rural, farm areas.
Meth causes a high that can last for days and is highly addictive. Users become manic and chase highs for fear of crashing. It is a drug that threatens to do to rural communities what crack cocaine has done to many urban neighborhoods.
A study conducted by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in 2002 showed that government agency costs related to addressing methamphetamine-related problems increased almost $1 million from 1999 to 2001 in a rural region of Northeastern Colorado. The study focused on Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma counties, an 11,432-square-mile agricultural-dependent area with a population of 77,680.
In the region studied, experts cited increased rates of child abuse and neglect, psychotic episodes, violence, work and school absenteeism, unemployment, fraud and financial problems. Those social ills, the study concluded, were related to the rise in methamphetamine use.
Federal law enforcement statistics show that the number of methamphetamine seizures in Colorado increased from 18 in 1996 to 325 in 2002. The Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team has investigated more than 40 meth labs in Northwest Colorado since 1996.
Many people move to Northwest Colorado to escape dangers that have plagued metropolitan areas, including illegal drugs. But it would be foolish to pretend that our communities are free of drugs, particularly meth.
Daniel Carver, a Routt County teenager, lost his life to suicide brought on in part by methamphetamine addiction. His grandfather had the courage to try to find broader meaning in this tragic loss. We should hear his message and learn from it.