The fentanyl and opioid crises have dominated the news cycle around drugs in the U.S., but there is another, slightly older drug coming back to the streets — meth.
In just the last week, local news stories about crystal methamphetamine possession arrests and charges have cropped up in more than two dozen states, including North Carolina, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.
A North Carolina woman was arrested last week for the 10th time since September 2019 on drug possession charges after local authorities found two pounds of methamphetamine during a search. In Arkansas, an Arizona man was arrested on Friday after police found more than $1 million of meth, about 25 pounds, during a traffic stop.
In one of last week’s stranger stories, an Alabama man faces new charges for allegedly keeping a meth-fueled “attack squirrel” in his apartment.
The larger picture across the country is less peculiar.
The meth epidemic and its interplay with the opioid epidemic have contributed to a mental illness and homelessness crisis in recent years that has grown worse since the early 2000s, when meth exploded in the U.S. as a street drug. In 2008, as the drug crisis worsened, “Breaking Bad” seared the meth trafficking phenomenon into the American psyche.
Now, cheap, potent meth is coming up from Mexico and flooding the U.S. drug market.
Meanwhile, changes in the chemical process of cooking meth have caused additional concerns as drug dealers learn how to create more dangerous versions of the drug.
In Washington state, meth overdoses have been steadily increasing since 2010, jumping to 10.5 deaths per 100,000 state residents in 2020. During the pandemic, Mexican cartels dealing meth became a lucrative business in Seattle, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said. Some semi-recovered users did not have access to psychiatrists during lockdowns, so they turned back to meth.
Cops in Washington state can no longer arrest someone for possession of drugs like meth, heroin, or cocaine until the third time they catch them, something that has proven extremely difficult to track as drug overdoses tick up across the state.
Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl told The Daily Wire back in September that Washington state’s permissive drug laws often do not stop the addiction cycle, contrary to what lawmakers and others who push for leniency seem to expect.
“In their mind they’re thinking I would never want to be addicted to meth or heroin or oxycontin or cocaine,” Meidl said. “That’s your lens. Because you don’t have the addiction, you don’t have trauma from childhood. You don’t have the mental health issues.”
Oregon, a state that is no stranger to the ravages of meth addiction, has seen the drug make a resurgence in recent years to the point where meth is now the leading cause of overdose deaths in the state. Meth overdose deaths in Oregon have spiked from 43 in 2010 to 289 in 2019, according to the Mental Health Addiction Association of Oregon.
Last October, federal authorities announced the biggest meth drug bust in Oregon’s history, seizing more than $1 million worth of meth, about 384 pounds, and arresting the leader of a drug trafficking cell.