|Methamphetamine image from Drug Enforcement Administration|
Meth use has long been mostly prevalent in Western Kentucky, but is moving east.
“We’re completely eat up with it around here,” Paintsville Police Chief Mike Roe told Aaron K. Nelson of The Paintsville Herald. “It’s an epidemic.”
Nelson reports that according to the Johnson County Judicial Center, meth production is on the decline in Johnson County, but possession and trafficking of the drug is on the rise.
"The numbers for first-offense meth possession started with a handful of charges in 2008. They slowed down in 2012, but have skyrocketed since, peaking with 80 charges in 2017," he writes. And as of early May, Nelson reports that there have already been 26 charges in the county.
Nelson adds that first-offense manufacturing of methamphetamine peaked in 2013 and 2014, with 20 cases each year, compared to just one case in 2016, one in 2017, and zero so far in 2018. But at the same time, trafficking of the drug has increased, reporting that "first-offense trafficking meth cases in 2017 were the highest on record," with those numbers having been tied or exceeded already in 2018.
“A few years ago, you had manufacturing here. A lot of shake-and-bake,” Roe told Nelson, referring to the relatively easy — and dangerous — method for making low-quality methamphetamine in small, portable labs. “Now, it’s coming in from Detroit, Louisville, Huntington … everywhere.”
Beth Warren of the Louisville Courier Journal has reported a similar meth surge in Louisville, and Dave Thompson of The Paducah Sun has reported that methamphetamine is now the "drug of choice" in Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois.
"Meth-related deaths in Kentucky more than tripled from 2013 to 2016, when 252 people died, according to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center. More than a third of those deaths were in Jefferson County," Warren wrote. "Police across Kentucky intercepted more than triple the amount of meth last year than they did in 2013, according to a recent state police report. Nearly 11,000 drug seizures submitted to the state crime lab last year were meth — more than heroin, cocaine and fentanyl combined."
“I would say trafficking is our top priority,” Roe said. “Busting these dealers.”