Missouri was once considered the capital of the country's methamphetamine laboratory. The frequent busts and stories of laboratory explosions in residential neighborhoods have become so commonplace that they are no longer worthy of interest.
But in 2006, the era of the onslaught of methamphetamine labs virtually halted after federal and state laws restricted the sale of pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter cold medicine and a prescription drug. essential precursor of methamphetamine cooked at home, resulting in a remarkable decline in laboratory seizures in the state.
But this sharp drop tells only one side of the story.
While the opioid crisis is rife across the country and making headlines in national news, there is a resurgence of methamphetamine addiction, putting many Missouri's at risk and putting a strain on drug resources. ;State.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses caused by stimulants such as methamphetamine have claimed the lives of more than 7,500 people in the United States in 2016. Between 2008 and 2016 – the most recent report included in the CDC report – the death rate from these stimulants has increased by an average of 26% each year.
Missourians are looking for methamphetamine dependence treatment in increasing numbers, with a 52% increase in treatment admissions between 2012 and 2016, according to data provided by SAMHSA, the Addiction Services Administration and mental health.
Missouri rose from just over 5,000 admissions in 2012 to nearly 7,700 in 2016. By itself, St. Louis registered 719 methamphetamine admissions in 2016, an increase of 128%, with 404 more entries that year, compared to 315 recorded four years earlier.
In contrast, the Missouri State Highway Patrol seized only one underground methamphetamine lab in St. Louis and one in Franklin County in 2017. In St. Louis County, six drug labs methamphetamine were seized in 2017, according to data from the road patrol.
In Jefferson County, 250 to 300 methamphetamine buses were used in 2011 and 2012. In 2018, the Jefferson County Municipal Police Group seized only 16, Sgt said. Tony Dennis.
"But methamphetamine is as prevalent as ever before, it's just the way they get it," he said. "The lab for methamphetamine no longer exists, but users and addicts are still there."
Most of the methamphetamine available in the United States is produced in Mexico and smuggled north of the southwestern border, according to the DEA report on the National Assessment of Drug Addiction, 2018.
"It's such cheap medicine and with the glut that comes out of Mexico, it's no longer necessary to take the risk of cooking," Dennis said. "So we still have the same problems with methamphetamine, but you do not have a lab next door that could potentially explode."
The US Customs and Border Protection Service reported that methamphetamine seizures at the border were increasing at a giant pace.
In September 2008, the South Central Missouri Drug Task Force seized approximately 15 times more grams of methamphetamine than in 2008, but only one-eighth of the number of methamphetamine laboratories.
William J. Callahan, special agent at the DEA Division in St. Louis, which covers southern Illinois, Kansas and Missouri, said that much of the methamphetamine that arrives in the region crosses the southern border in liquid form. then converted to "ice cream", a term for the potent methamphetamine commonly consumed today, in so – called "conversion labs".
Callahan describes methamphetamine as part of a larger "stimulus crisis" that includes an increase in cocaine production in Colombia, adding that "with respect to methamphetamine, producers" are making it fall " .
Callahan said the increase in the use of methamphetamine in the region is due in part to the cost, potency and availability of methamphetamine manufactured in Mexico.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that can be smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected, resulting in a significant increase in wakefulness, loss of appetite, faster breathing, rapid and / or abnormal heartbeat, and other conditions. physical symptoms.
Andy Moore, Butler County Coroner, said that unlike opiates, "with methamphetamine, you do not take it and you do not die". The use of methamphetamine, he says, exacerbates pre-existing health problems such as heart or respiratory problems. Deaths may not be clearly linked to methamphetamine, but they may still be considered overdoses methamphetamine because the drug eventually led to death.
An overdose of methamphetamine "may feel like you have a heart attack," said Laura Cameron, director of support services at Phoenix Programs Inc. in Columbia, Missouri.
Due to advances in the manufacturing process, the methamphetamine content has become extremely high, while the production costs are relatively low.
The DEA announced a purity level of nearly 39% for domestic purchases of methamphetamine in the summer of 2007. Ten years later, beginning of 2017, purity levels were above 93%.
Despite the chemical advances that make methamphetamine more pure when it is produced, it has at the same time become "almost impossible" to find methamphetamine that has not been cleaved with other substances. after the facts, according to Jason Grellner, former lieutenant of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department. and vice-president of the National Coalition of Narcotics Officers Associations.
Callahan said the DEA had encountered methamphetamine containing traces of fentanyl. Fortunately, these mixtures are still "rare", according to the DEA report.
Methamphetamine is constantly mixed with synthetic drugs, many of which have psychoactive effects. This makes the work of the medical staff extremely difficult, Grellner said, as people who seek treatment are often delirious and uncontrollable, with auditory and visual hallucinations.
Worse, even though doctors can test methamphetamine in individuals, they still can not detect the host of other substances with which it is often cut.
Years ago, Collie added, local manufacturers produced an ounce or two at a time. Now that it is so easy to buy methamphetamine in Mexico in bulk, it does not even bother them.
People struggling to recover from opioid addiction may choose to take medications such as Vivitrol, Suboxone or Naltrexone. But for methamphetamine addiction, there are no equivalent drugs, which makes it difficult for convalescing patients.
Cameron advocates patient access to these medications along with other elements of their treatment plan.
"It removes cravings. In many cases, drugs block everything that happens. So it's no longer fun – it's a waste of time, it's a waste of money, because you get no effect, "Cameron said.
But there is no widely used equivalent for methamphetamine dependence.
Phoenix tried an antidepressant called mirtazapine – sometimes known as Remeron – in some of his patients who were recovering from methamphetamine addiction. A 2011 study showed encouraging results for mirtazapine's ability to reduce methamphetamine dependence, but only looked at 60 male patients.
Christine Byers of Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.