Misleading Post About Contaminated Meth Receives Backlash

By Kelly Burch 01/11/19

Local officials say the Facebook post, which was later deleted, was made in bad judgment.

person posting misleading message on Facebook

Officials in Pennsylvania say that a Facebook post by a constable offering to test meth for influenza was misleading and irresponsible. 

“If you have recently purchased meth in Northampton, Monroe, Lehigh or Bucks Counties, it may be contaminated with the Influenza Virus. . . . Please bring all of it to your local Police Department and they will test it for free,” said the post, which was credited to Wilson Borough State Constable’s Office, according to The Morning Call. “If you’re not comfortable driving to your local Police Department, You can contact my Office and an officer or deputy will be glad to come to you and test your Meth in the privacy of your home.”

Wilson Constable Fred Schoenenberger posted the message, which was later deleted. In Pennsylvania, constables are elected or appointed and make their money through fees for serving warrant and subpoenas and transporting prisoners. They aren’t associated with area police departments, which was part of the problem with Schoenenberger’s post, said Joshua Fulmer, a lawyer for the Northampton County Constables Association.

“When you see this page it comes off as like something from a police department, but that’s not what it is,” he said. 

The area’s district attorney said that the post was made in bad judgment: “I read it and it made no sense to me,” he said. 

In recent years, police departments around the country have posted Facebook messages offering to test meth and other drugs for safety. In fact, Schoenenberger took the idea from an Illinois sheriff’s office that posted the same message on New Year’s Eve.

The tactic is a tongue-in-cheek response to the drug epidemic, and — some might argue — a way to try and trick people into bringing their drugs to police. However, critics say that the approach falls flat and can lead to misunderstandings and mistrust.

“The field doesn’t need misguided information or misguided attempts to change what is going on,” said Timothy Munsch, who works as executive director of the Lehigh Valley Drug and Alcohol Intake Unit.

Although Schoenenberger deleted the post, he called it “a success” and said a few people even reached out to him for help with their substance use disorders. In a later post he stood by his actions. 

“While this intended ‘humor’ may have offended some it certainly opened some real dialogue about how serious this issue is. We received many messages for help, and asking if this was real. The post is real and the help is real if you want it and ask for it.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.