Drug problem growing throughout valley

IN A recent report compiled by the National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System, Ohio was ranked fourth for number of methamphetamine labs seized in 2013. Authorities uncovered 1,010 labs, a jump from 709 in 2012, when Ohio ranked seventh in the nation. The 2013 report ranked Indiana first, followed by Tennessee and Missouri.

Attorney General Mike DeWine has described the growth of meth as reaching “epidemic proportions,” especially in rural Ohio.

The influx of meth labs throughout the state can be blamed on many factors. For one thing, meth can be made using a “one-pot” method, which can be done anywhere and doesn’t require a heat source. Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas said most of the meth labs his officers come across are unelaborate one-pot mixtures.

“These little labs can be done in someone’s shed or apartment,” he said. “But, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.”

Lucas said his department is dealing with more meth labs than ever before, and the addiction problem in the area continues to fuel the drug’s growth.

“Ten years ago we were attending classes to see how many (labs) there were west of Ohio. It was in the hundreds and at the time there were very few in Ohio. But now, it’s an every day battle.”

Police officers use different avenues to root out meth labs, including working with hardware stores to keep an eye out for individuals buying suspicious amounts of chemicals like Draino.

While meth is undoubtedly a growing problem, Lucas says the biggest drug problems in this area continue to be heroin and prescription pill abuse. Both drugs fall under the label of opioids, or drugs that relieve pain. As many as 11 Ohioans die every week due to heroin overdoses, a problem DeWine has also labeled an epidemic. In 2007, drug overdose deaths surpassed auto accidents to become the leading cause of injury and death in Ohio.

While over a thousand meth labs seems bad enough, it’s possible the state is riddled with even more drug cook sites. Police officers report voluntarily, so there could be many more labs than the statistics show.

Warner can be reached at mwarner@timesleaderonline.com.