Nationally and locally, meth makes a comeback

By on February 26, 2020

The uptick in local methamphetamine-related arrests – coupled with a recent U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announcement to crack down on eight major meth “transportation cities” – signals that the highly addictive psychostimulant has not only made a alarming resurgence on the national level, but is a problem here in Dare County as well.

According to Dare County Sheriff’s Office press releases and arrest blotters, Dare County has seen at least nine arrests since last June involving possession and/or intent to sell or deliver methamphetamine.

In addition, the Voice had been recently told by officials from the Dare County’s Division of Social Services and Recovery Court that they’ve also seen evidence of increased methamphetamine abuse locally.

“We are definitely seeing a little bit more meth resurfacing over the last year,” said Captain Kevin Duprey of the Dare County Sheriff’s Office. “A lot of times, things come in spurts…dictated by the drug trade. It is whatever people are pushing at that point. If drug dealers somewhere are pushing meth, that is what we are going to get.”

The state and federal numbers regarding meth’s resurgence are compelling, and officials say that it can largely be attributed to the mass production of the drug in Mexican super labs, which is driving down the cost and making it a drug of choice for dealers to push.

According to the DEA, that agency’s domestic seizures of methamphetamine increased 127 percent from Fiscal Year 2017 to Fiscal Year 2019.  During the same time frame, the number of DEA arrests related to methamphetamine rose nearly 20 percent.

In 2019, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI) seized approximately 906 kilograms of methamphetamine as a result of their own investigations, not taking into account other law enforcement investigations across the state, according to the bureau’s media relations office.

“We want to make sure the message gets out there that meth is back and it’s back in a heavy way,” DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt O’Brien told the Voice during a recent interview where he discussed the agency’s efforts in Operation Crystal Shield, which was announced last week by DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon.

O’Brien, who works out of the agency’s Raleigh office, was in Dare County this week to provide training to local Narcotics Task Force officers and law enforcement personnel.

O’Brien said Operation Crystal Shield focuses on operations in the eight major cities where large amounts of methamphetamine are delivered after crossing the U.S. southwestern border. From these hub cities, the drugs are being dispersed through drug trafficking networks across the country, according to the DEA.

Atlanta is the primary southeast destination of Mexican meth, notes O’Brien. “It is certainly [being transported] into Atlanta, which is a hub, into the Carolinas, and sadly will make its way out here, and that’s when you are going to see that uptick.”

O’Brien noted that while “one pot” meth labs using precursor chemicals are not obsolete in the United States, many of those were successfully shut down in the early 2000s after laws were enacted to deter them. The shift in production has largely been to Mexican drug trafficking organizations that, O’Brien asserts, “are producing just obscene amounts of meth. It’s pouring across [the border], it’s coming across in tractor trailers, in vehicles usually across the southwest border and on to transportation cities.”

The mass production of the drug has meant that dealers can sell it for a cheaper price. O’Brien said that in North Carolina, a kilo of meth was roughly $35,000 in 2010. “Now it’s about $5,000. And that kind of drop allows for it to just flood the market.”

The goal of Operation Crystal Shield, O’Brien asserted, “it to try to knock those transportation hubs and those big organizations that get [the drug] across the border into our cities and then disperse it.” The hope, he added, “is that going after the bigger organizations will trickle down and then slow the supply out there.”

In an effort to combat the resurgence, the NCSBI has, over the past few years, provided methamphetamine awareness classes across the state to law enforcement personnel, probation/parole officers, first responders, medical personnel, health care workers, child services case workers, and local community organizations.

“We have educated these individuals to recognize what paraphernalia, materials, equipment and chemicals to look for, and how to seek assistance if they find something suspicious,” according to an SBI statement.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Press Assistant Sarah Lewis Peel told the Voice in an email that the department’s data currently shows that overdoses involving methamphetamine have begun to rise, but that statewide the numbers are still relatively low.

North Carolina’s most recent data indicates that 70 percent of methamphetamine overdose deaths also involved the drug fentanyl, she said. “This reflects national trends, where a contaminated supply is driving the increase in deaths.”

Peel also stressed that the quickly changing nature of substance use disorder epidemics “highlights the need for a more resilient infrastructure that is able to respond to both the rise in methamphetamine use, and other emerging substances that may rise in the future.”

While there are evidence-based models to treat addiction to methamphetamines, she asserted that, “Medicaid expansion is the single most important thing we can do to provide sustainable support for people receiving the treatment they need.”


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  • Really?

    As a person who’s been affected directly by family members drug use, people seem to think giving out needles is the way to deal with opioids so how about some straws and needles for dealing with meth? I mean it worked so well with opioids it will work with meth right? The “experts” seem to think they have it all figured out, and hey, if not maybe some Narcan thrown in there for good measure. Quit treating these users with soft gloves and punish them with enough severity so they understand how they are destroying their lives, their families lives and destroying communities. And for gosh sakes don’t arrest them for using meth if you won’t even arrest someone using heroin. I’m all for treatment but to somehow make users a “victim'” is absurd. The current way to deal with drug abuse is obviously a complete failure!

    Wednesday, Feb 26 @ 8:27 am
  • Ripperdude

    It’s about time. Meth prices have been absurd in dare county. Thanks to Trump’s booming economy and foreign trade policy its finally affordable!

    Friday, Feb 28 @ 12:03 pm