By Wayne Gates –
Crystal Methamphetamine or “Ice” is back in Brown County in a big way.
“We’ve gotten more meth off the street in the first quarter of this year than we took off the street the entire year in 2017,” said Brown County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force Commander Justin Conley.
“Last year, the cases that the task force put together for trafficking were almost a fifty-fifty split. When you look at this year so far, instead of that fifty-fifty split, we are looking an 80-20 split of meth to heroin. As the year goes by, that split is growing.”
Meth addicts who encounter law enforcement and the public bring a whole new set of issues than heroin addicts do.
“They are amped up, they’re paranoid, it’s a horrible mix to have to deal with because they think that someone is out to get them, that has a little bit more strength than they usually do because they are high on a stimulant and they aren’t thinking clearly,” Conley said.
“It’s a huge issue for law enforcement because they are more likely to fight, they are more likely to flee, all of their systems are running hotter than they should and it puts everybody else at risk.”
Conley said that someone who is high on meth could be experiencing paranoia or hallucinations, and that the general public should not approach them.
“If people see somebody acting erratically like talking to themselves, dancing where their’s no music or something like that, don’t approach them. Call 911,” Conley said.
He gave a couple of examples of what it’s like to deal with someone who is high on meth.
“We’ve had calls about females walking down the road in 20 degree weather trying to take their clothes off, trying to get into vehicles, talking incoherently,” Conley said.
“We had one instance where we were called to a house and the guy sat down and stood back up 30 to 40 times while we were there.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, meth is a stimulant.
Users feel a sense of euphoria and energy as the brain releases pleasure chemicals. Then once the high wears off, users feel depression and fatigue because of the energy they burned up while high.
Their brain is also exhausted of dopamine and other pleasure chemicals, so users feel depressed and anxious.
This cycle continues with long term users until they begin to experience hallucinations and paranoia. Long term users also usually experience physical symptoms like bad skin and bed teeth as meth takes its toll on the body.
Conley said that the meth in the county today has mostly been manufactured elsewhere and brought in rather than being “cooked” locally.
“We are not getting a lot of the clandestine labs that were a big issue the first time meth was an issue in the county because it’s cheaper for them to buy it and it’s being pushed in here from other sources,” he said.
He also said that the increase in meth use could come down to simple economics for users.
“Heroin is four times more expensive than methamphetamine in general. As far as availability, people can purchase it in larger numbers,” Conley said. “You can buy a larger amount with the same money and support your habit a little easier by selling more product.”
Conley said that the growth in meth is more of an additional problem along with heroin rather than being a new issue to deal with.
“We are still going to see heroin use. It’s not like heroin has gone away. But with the availability of ice, the price and the change in the market, we are seeing a bigger shift to meth,” he said. “Last year, they suspected 30 fatal heroin overdoses due to opioids. This year so far we are only at four. We seeing the trend of fatal overdoses go down. We still have an abuse problem, but a lot more people are surviving heroin overdoses.”
Conley said that narcan along with trained first responders are helping to hold down fatal heroin overdoses, but that meth presents a different problem.
“There is no narcan for methamphetamine. We can’t hit them with something and make them immediately calm down,” Conley said.
He added that new quick response team designed to help with heroin overdoses may expand its role.
“The sheriff’s department and the board of mental health and addiction services are talking about ways that the quick response team can branch out and talk to people that have a methamphetamine addiction as well as those with a heroin addiction,” Conley said.
Anyone with information about a suspected crime involving meth or heroin can call the task force tip line anonymously at (937) 378-378-2573 or e-mail DrugTips@BCDMCTF.org