SEATTLE – You’ve heard about the opioid epidemic and how it has ravaged our region but now another drug is making a comeback in a dangerous way – it’s meth.
In King County alone last year, methamphetamine overdose deaths surpassed heroin overdose deaths.
“The overall death rate has gone up dramatically,” said Caleb Banta-Green, interim director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. “They’ve more than tripled, and they’ve actually more than tripled in a very short period of time.”
Banta-Green says what used to be a scourge about a dozen years ago is now back in the headlines and killing more people who use it.
“This isn’t just about the opioid epidemic, this is also about the fact that we have a unique thing going on with methamphetamine and that is that we have a lot more users and a lot more dying,” he said.
Back in 2005, sales of over the counter medications which could be used to make meth at home were regulated, but that moved production out of our neighborhoods and across our borders.
“Turned out that squeezed the balloon and the balloon popped up in Mexico,” said Banta-Green.
“The smugglers will use any means possible to get it up here,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge, Keith Weis. “They’re often very sophisticated in nature.”
The DEA says that means their agents are now seizing more meth hidden in ever more creative spaces like car engines or even tires. Weis says today’s meth is more potent than ever, up to 98% pure.
“That’s been since replaced by super clandestine labs that are mostly in Mexico where they make large amounts of meth,” said Weis.
Banta-Green says the best way to tackle meth abuse disorder is to get to the root cause – that means dealing with mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
“There’s a lot of reasons that people use meth what we need to do if we want to get them healthier, we need to provide them better options that have easier access,” he said.
But, if federal seizures are any measure, more meth users around Puget Sound are playing with fire, ingesting a powerful drug that’s made a comeback for all the bad reasons.
“With six months to go in this year we’ve already surpassed the amount of meth we seized last year,” said Weis. “We’re on pace to far outdo what we seized last year.”