Oklahoma is one of the states that has been the most severely affected by the opioid crisis, one of the drugs being methanphetamine. It is easy to forget about other substances and the way they have affected the country due to the spotlight that opioids have received in recent years. While opioids remain the most deadly class of drugs in the country, there are many other illicit drugs that still kill thousands of Americans each year.
Along with prescription medication, methamphetamine has begun to make a bigger impact on the number of drug overdose deaths in the state of Oklahoma. Methamphetamine abuse has risen rapidly to become the second-biggest problem for the state when it comes to drugs. According to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, in 2007 methamphetamine contributed to 39 deaths, that number eventually rose to 278 deaths in 2016, an increase of over 600 percent in less than 10 years.
Despite the Oklahoma, and the country in general, making efforts to reduce the manufacture and use of methamphetamine through legislation, the drug has taken off in recent years. In fact some of the legislation that limited the domestic production of the drug may have even opened the door for Mexican cartels to step in and begin mass producing the drug.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that impacts the central nervous system. When the drug is smoked or injected, it provides a brief, but intense sensation or rush. Oral ingestion or snorting the drug produces a long-lasting high instead of a rush which reportedly lasts for as long as half a day.
Both the rush and the high are a result from the release of high levels of the dopamine neurotransmitter into the brain. Chronic meth users will exhibit violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, aggression, delusions, and more. High doses of the drug may result in overdose leading to stroke, heart attack, or multiple organ problems caused by overheating.
Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and a currently accepted medical use.
Historically, in the United States, methamphetamine has been a major drug of abuse. From 2011 to 2016, the drug has been one of the top-10 most deadly drugs in the country. Moreover, the drug seems to be increasing in popularity in recent years. Between 2011 to 2016, drug overdose deaths from methamphetamine increased from 1,887 to 6,762, an increase of over 250 percent.
The Drug Enforcement Agency, in its 2017 report, found that the availability of methamphetamine has been rising, as had the potency, this is mainly a result of super labs in Mexico constantly making and trafficking the drug across the country.
“Methamphetamine seizures along the [Southwestern Border] will likely increase as demand in the United States remains high. Domestic production will likely continue to decline as methamphetamine produced in Mexico continues to be a low-cost, high-purity, high-potency alternative,” the DEA report said.
Oklahoma is one of the states that has been most affected by the resurgence of methamphetamine. According to the state’s Department of Health, the drug had a death rate of 1.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 2007, but in 2016, that number shot up to 7.1 deaths.
Similarly, the availability of the drug has skyrocketed in recent years. One spokesman for the Tulsa Police Department said that they have seen a 400 percent increase in methamphetamine seizures in the past two years.
In October, police officers in Oklahoma found over 1,200 pounds of liquid meth in a semi-truck’s fuel tank. That amount of meth was said to be worth $4.4 million.
In Oklahoma, Tulsa is one county that has seen its share of methamphetamine. In fact, to some it is considered the meth capital of the world. This was especially true during the time when manufacturing of methamphetamine was done domestically on a small scale. In just the first six months of 2018, a spokesman for the Tulsa Police force said that the county had already surpassed the amount of meth they seized in all of 2017 by 30 pounds.
History of Methamphetamine in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is one state that has been most affected by the resurgence of methamphetamine, partially because the illicit drug was popular before the manufacturing of the drug was monopolized by Mexican drug cartels.
In a CNN article Tulsa Police Capt. Mark Wollmershauser Jr. spoke on the dangers of methamphetamine in the late 2000's and early 2010's. He talked about how production of the drug during this time was done with the “shake and bake” method, making meth using cold medicine, chemicals, and an empty two-liter bottle.
While this could be an effective way to make the drug, it also was dangerous.
It was a simple way to make methamphetamine but if a mistake was made, it could result in deadly explosions.
“People were not just burning themselves while cooking meth but were causing damage to other residents that had nothing to do with methamphetamine," Wollmershauser said. "It was a really horrible time."
However, new state laws were adopted to limit the access to the cold medicine used for manufacturing. The law was effective, in 2011, the state responded to 431 meth labs. That number dropped to 19 in 2017.
However, that didn’t mean that meth use and demand fell. As mentioned before, the number of methamphetamine drug deaths skyrocketed during this time. But, how is this happening if the number of Oklahoma manufacturers fell?
The answer is simple: manufacturing of methamphetamine was outsourced to Mexico.
Mexican drug cartels producing mass amounts of methamphetamine and shipping them into the United States. A DEA agent said that in 2012, the agency was buying meth undercover for $1,100 for an ounce. Today, the same ounces are going for $250 to $450.
The drop in price is, partially, a result of the amount of meth that these labs produce compared to the “shake and bake” labs that could only produce a small amount of the drug.
The number of methamphetamine overdose deaths has risen with the availability of the drug. Mark Woodward, spokesman with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, said that the number of meth overdoses was 327 in 2017, but the tally is incomplete and the actual number is likely to be higher.
"There's so much attention -- not just in Oklahoma, but nationwide -- on the opioid crisis," said Mark Woodward, spokesman with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. "But our single most deadly individual drug is methamphetamine."
In an article by The Oklahoman, one leader in the state’s fight against drug abuse, Kevin McIntire, said that the small time meth cooks are nothing compared to the methamphetamine production in Mexico, comparing it to the power of the cartels to Walmart.
“There is no comparison to the amount of buying power and capital that Walmart has to a local mom-and-pop shop,” McIntire said. “It's the same thing as the cartels — the financial backing, the hierarchy. You cannot compare a... local methamphetamine cook to that.”
The amount of methamphetamine that Mexican cartels have been able to make is alarming. Seizures at the border for methamphetamine increased from 8,900 pounds in 2010 to nearly 82,000 pounds in 2018 with the actual amount not fully accounted for as of yet.
A recent report from the Drug Enforcement Agency on the common drugs of abuse said that the agency expects methamphetamine seizures along the southwestern border to increase as the demand for the drug in the United States remains high.
Today in Oklahoma, methamphetamine is considered the number one killer in the state when it comes to drug-related deaths.
“It’s just not making the headlines, and it should be,” Woodward said. “I think too many people are under the impression that when meth labs went away, meth deaths went away. It’s disappointing, that’s for sure.”
What Is Being Done?
In the past, when the state was dealing with small time manufacturers in the state, there was legislation passed to crack down on methamphetamine manufacturing and usage. In 2004, Oklahoma became the first state to reclassify pseudoephedrine as a Schedule V drug. In turn, arrests in Oklahoma for the manufacture of meth in clandestine laboratories declined. While the passage of the law did help reduce the number of small time drug manufacture operations, there is evidence that the methamphetamine usage had not decreased. Instead there was some evidence that showed that the passage of the bill only led to an increase in drug trafficking of methamphetamine to the state. With the rise of the Mexican drug cartels, this has only continued.
It should also be noted that following Oklahoma’s law, the federal government passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 to regulate and restrict some over-the-counter drugs that were being used to make meth. Still, some domestic illicit manufacturers were able to circumvent these restrictions by simply visiting multiple stores in one day.
While these two laws may have been effective in reducing the number of clandestine methamphetamine manufacturing in the country, it opened the door for other entities to take over the methamphetamine manufacturing industry and the Mexican cartels jumped on this opportunity.
There have been attempts in the past to reduce methamphetamine use in the state, but with no concrete results. Instead, the drug has become more prominent and more people are dying as a result of methamphetamine now than any other year in the recent past.
Despite aggressive methamphetamine laws in the state of Oklahoma, including a fine of $1,000 and a year in jail for a misdemeanor possession charge and a prison term of 15 years to life for aggravated trafficking, it has not prevented the usage of the drug across the state.
Along with strict punishments, the state also passed the Oklahoma Methamphetamine Offender Registry Act. The act requires the Bureau of Narcotics to maintain a registry of people convicted for meth-related crimes. Being on the list makes it a crime to purchase, possess, or control pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in the meth-making process. Offenders’ names eventually fall off the registry ten years after their sentence.
While opioids have taken the spotlight when it comes to drug addiction and overdoses in the United States, there are still a number of other illicit substances that are killing tens of thousands of people a year. Methamphetamine, along with a number of other illegal drugs are wreaking havoc on the country. Methamphetamine has seen resurgence in recent years as Mexican super labs have begun to mass produce the drug and traffick it across the southern border.
While some politicians and citizens believe that a wall along the southern border would help to eradicate the problem of drug trafficking from Mexico to the United States, there are some counterarguments. For one, drug cartels have been known to have an elaborate system of subterranean tunnels to traffic their illicit drugs. This, along with using cargo trains, small boats, and even aircraft, are a few of the ways that cartels could get around the wall.
While a wall may seem like a good idea on the surface, if you dig a bit deeper you will see that there are some flaws with the strategy. With that said, it may be a good idea for federal and state employees to look at other ways to cut down on the drug issue in the country.
The drug epidemic in the country led to serious consequences and has killed tens of thousands of people and impacted millions more. While recently, the country has seen the effects that opioid prescriptions can have, there are still many other types of illicit drugs that contribute to the ongoing drug problem in the United States. At Landmark Recovery we are dedicated to helping all people affected by substance abuse problems. Our treatment professionals have the tools and knowledge that can help you achieve and maintain sobriety. If you are interested in learning about drug or alcohol treatment options please reach out to our admissions team today.