Meth Emerges as New Threat in Panhandle as Florida Struggles with Opioid Epidemic

December 03, 2019 - /PressAdvantage/ - The US is still battling with the opioid abuse crisis, and Florida is no exception. But a largely forgotten drug has recently ramped up in North Florida: methamphetamine. Local law enforcement agencies say it is because of the drug’s low cost and relative ease of access. These factors have made it harder for law enforcement agencies to keep meth under control.

Leon County Sheriffs Deputy Michael Wallace has seen the toll of meth first-hand. Working in Gadsden County previously, Wallace encountered and befriended a known drug user who was initially addicted to cocaine until she had tried meth.

“It removed the taste of addiction from her," Wallace said. She told him, “I like to get high, but I don’t want no more crack—this meth is where it’s at.”

Wallace added: “I knew that this drug would become a heck of an issue for us when a known crack user didn’t want crack.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Chief Forensic Officer Mary Jane Havener said that meth has risen to become a drug of choice for users in Tallahassee and North Florida. This is happening on top of the ongoing opioid epidemic that also caused the rise of drugs like Fentanyl and heroin as a result of tougher prescription controls.

“A much higher percentage of the overall drugs received in the panhandle are methamphetamine,” Havener said, “wherein Orlando and Fort Myers area where you’ve got those central and southwestern counties you see a much higher percentage of cocaine.”

Because meth is made with simple household products, it is one of the easiest drugs to access. Meth users are more susceptible to extreme weight loss, tooth decay, anxiety, and hallucinations, among other adverse effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Meth has become one of those things that, because of the nature of how it’s made and what it’s made of, it’s plentiful,” says Wallace.

A 2017 report by the Florida Medical Examiners showed that there were a reported 85 meth-related deaths in the state. This was a 38 percent increase from 2016. Of those deaths that happened in 2017, 82 were reported in the panhandle.

“Some of it is related to population, but some of it is related to what dugs are being used by the population,” Havener said. “You do see differences regionally, and you also see some of those differences in the number and type of opioid drug.” Meth caused more deaths in the region than cocaine, heroin, and Fentanyl, according to the report.

Law enforcement agencies are relying heavily on older methods like anonymous tips and traffic stops because meth can be made in homes and is, therefore, less obvious. Users also have a bigger tendency to become dealers.

“There are certain drugs that we would look at and we would say, 'that’s a drug that going to hit the black community, that’s a white drug.' But you know what? Meth has been one of those drugs that have no respect of a person,” said Wallace. Florida law enforcement agencies are still trying to crack down on drug trafficking in the state.

If someone in the family is struggling with opioid or alcohol addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against drug abuse. But because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.

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