Meth back? Never went away

Bethany Bruner - The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

While some Ohio law enforcement officers say they’re seeing a resurgence of methamphetamine, central Ohio agencies say the drug never really faded away.

Opioid use has garnered headlines because of the high rates of overdose deaths, allowing meth to slip into the shadows temporarily.

However, methamphetamine, a stimulant, never stopped being a top drug of choice, particularly in rural communities, said detective James Jodrey, with the Franklin County sheriff’s office Special Investigations Unit.

But instead of clandestine labs where people are cooking their own meth, the drug is now primarily coming from Mexico.

“It’s better quality and a cheaper price,” Jodrey said. “The labs and the one-pot cooks, those have gone to the wayside.”

Five years ago, meth would sell for $80 to $100 a gram, Jodrey said. Now, it can be bought for $275 an ounce, which amounts to approximately 28 grams.

“The tap was fully opened,” Jodrey said.

Both Jodrey and sheriff’s office detective Joseph Smith said Mexican cartels that had primarily been dealing with heroin have been entering the meth market over the last five years.

“The dealers are selling both,” Smith said.

Columbus police and the Delaware County sheriff’s office also said they are seeing methamphetamine more frequently than in recent years, particularly in large quantities in comparison to the single user quantities they had seen over the past several years.

“We are starting to see quite a lot of methamphetamine,” Delaware County Sgt. Randy Pohl said.

The 23 drug task forces funded through the Ohio High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area agency saw a 1,600% jump in meth seized from 2015 to 2019 (and the 2019 numbers are incomplete).

Urine test results are backing up what law enforcement says they are seeing — particularly among those using an opiate and meth together.

In Ohio, 38.8% of urine tests examined retroactively by Millenium Health were positive for both fentanyl and methamphetamine between January 2015 and November 2019. It was the highest level of co-occurence in the country, according to Millenium Health.

Anecdotally, many opiate users begin using meth or cocaine, another stimulant, to get the high they no longer get from the opiates.

“People who have been addicted to heroin long-term, they don’t do it for euphoria, they do it to stay well,” Pohl said. “We have found them doing heroin and then hit a crack pipe to get a little euphoria or something to pick themselves up.”

And with the increase in meth use, there is likely to be an increase in crime.

“With heroin, you see property crime and retail crime for people supporting a habit,” Pohl said. “But when people get up on meth, and they start to tweak out, they have a different demeanor.”

Jodrey and Smith said meth users, especially those who have been awake for prolonged periods of time, often become irritable and more volatile, posing an increased risk to those interacting with them — including law enforcement.

Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Terry DeMio contributed to this story.

Bethany Bruner

The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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