Crystal methamphetamine has become the drug of choice among addicts in Windsor and it's destroying many people's lives, according to police and addiction experts.

The drug became more common in the city about two years ago and its use has been steadily on the rise to the point where it has become the most common choice among addicts, Windsor police told CBC News.

Drug experts say many crack cocaine users in Windsor have switched to crystal meth because the high lasts longer and it can be purchased for far less money.

But the drug is far more harmful than many others on the street, according to Byron Klingbyle, harm reduction coordinator at the AIDS Committee of Windsor.

"I'm seeing a lot more people on crystal meth," he said. "If they're on crystal meth for a period of time - a year or so - the brain damage is, [as] they say, irreversible. There are people who aren't going to be able to come back from it."

Permanent damage

Klingbyle describes the open wounds he sees on people's faces and arms. He also talked about other problems, such as incoherent speech and memory loss.

"You can see it in their eyes. They're struggling. They know what they want, they just can't say it," Klingbyle said.

Windsor police confirmed they started seeing an increase in meth two years ago, about four years after it hit nearby areas such as Chatham. Since arriving in Windsor, its use has increased dramatically, explained Sgt. Matt D'asti.

Identifying the source of the drug has not been easy.

"We know there are people either within our community or coming to our community from other regions who are dealing in crystal meth on the street level," D'Asti said.

Police have been focusing on public education as a way to prevent people from turning to meth, which is often made with cleaning fluids, battery acid and sometimes gasoline.

"Have these discussions with your kids and show them the images on the Internet," D'Asti said. "They're alarming, quite frankly, if you look at them. You are dealing with people that within a year can dramatically change for the worse."