Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 17, 2013

On the decline

Number of meth labs are increasing in this region

The Independent

ASHLAND — The Kentucky Drug Control Policy Office reports the number of methamphetamine labs found in the state in 2012 declined after a peak year.

But based on anti-drug activities in northeast Kentucky, one would never know the number of meth labs in the state is declining. In fact, as this region shows a few positive signs of finally beginning to make progress on curbing the prescription drug epidemic that has destroyed lives and families for more than a decade, the number of meth labs being found by area police is rising.

It almost seems this region is trading one serious drug problem — addiction to prescription drugs — for another drug problem, the abuse of methamphetamines produced by mixing mostly common household products and cold medications in small, portable and highly dangerous homemade labs.

Almost daily, one can read news stories in this newspaper about police in the region destroying meth labs and arresting those suspected of manufacturing meth.

The good news, police and prosecutors report, is prescription drug abuse seems to be on the decline after years of enduring hundreds of deaths from overdoses, witnessing soaring crime rates as addicts committed crimes to feed their habits and seeing families destroyed by the epidemic. Tough new state laws are credited with helping curb Kentucky’s drug problem, but another reason is after witnessing close friends die from abusing prescription drugs, more and more are wising up to the dangers of prescription drugs and refraining for misusing them.

That prescription drug abuse is on the decline is certainly encouraging as the epidemic was threatening the very future of this region and was the main cause of crime. However, if this region is only trading the abuse of prescription drugs for the use of meth, then little is being accomplished beyond trading one drug epidemic for another. That’s not the type of progress we need.

Of course, the meth problem has been moving eastward after first cropping up in California almost 30 years ago. The first meth labs destroyed in Kentucky were in the western part of the state, and the problem continued to move to the east. Maybe the meth problem is finally reaching the mountains just as it is subsiding in western Kentucky. If so, maybe it will begin to decline in this region in a few years. One can only hope.

A 2012 law enacted by the Kentucky General Assembly limits the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can purchase without a prescription. Pseudoephedrine is the key ingredient in locally produced methamphetamine.

Police say the new law may have been a factor in the decline in meth labs statewide, but the law has apparently been less effective in eastern Kentucky than in the rest of the state.

Be it meth or prescription drug abuse, the drug war is far from over in this region, and it is much too early to declare victory over a serious drug problem that still plagues this region. Can it get any worse? It sure can. Cocaine and heroin arrests are on the rise in this region. The enemy changes, but the war against drugs never ends.