While much of our attention is centered around the opioid crisis, meth has been making a comeback across Virginia, playing a large role in overdose death rates, and spreading. Methamphetamine is not just a rural area problem anymore – with international cartels taking over its production, it’s been flooding Virginia and bringing major problems to neighborhoods across the Commonwealth.
DEA Washington Division is seeing an unprecedented rise in methamphetamine trafficking and use across our area – in places we haven’t historically seen it.
Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Division, who covers all of the Commonwealth of Virginia, explains that there are two issues that make meth particularly concerning for our area. First is the link between methamphetamine and violent crime. When a community has a methamphetamine problem it typically sees increases in related violent crime on a number of fronts, to include gang and child welfare related issues. Second is the fact that methamphetamine addiction is very difficult to treat. Meth treatment options are very limited and the treatment does not have a great success rate.
The threat of methamphetamine taking a foothold in our area is of great concern to SAC Forget and doing something about it is what he and his Division are working hard to accomplish.
Where the Meth Comes From
Across Virginia, and the U.S., methamphetamine is no longer predominantly “cooked” in makeshift laboratories (commonly referred to as “one pot” laboratories) in rural areas of the country. Mexican cartels have capitalized on the cheap and quick production of the drug and have taken over the market.
Locally produced meth, made in “one pot” labs, peaked in 2014 in rural counties along the Western Virginia border. Once methamphetamine took a foothold, manufacturing and addiction spread like a cancer east and northward along the Interstate corridors. Meth use began to wane after access to key ingredients (such as over-the-counter decongestant, pseudoephedrine) was restricted.
Now, however DEA Washington and other law enforcement agencies are seeing drug cartels pumping cheap, potent methamphetamine, produced in multi-ton quantities using huge Mexican “superlabs," through established distribution networks for fentanyl, heroin, and into all sorts of new markets.
Thanks to its relatively low price to both make and sell, ease of distribution, and usage increase since the pandemic began, meth is back with a vengeance. Even in rural communities ravaged by decades of experience with the drug, meth has been on the upswing.
SAC Jarod Forget and Richmond Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Christopher Goumenis see meth reaching places and people it never did before.
A Community Problem
SAC Forget sees methamphetamine as a big threat in the area, as it has the unique ability to impact well beyond the individual user. The use of methamphetamine is not only highly destructive to the body and mind, and but it’s incredibly addictive, dangerous to innocent children and others in close proximity, often has detrimental effects on a local economy, crime rates, and the infrastructure of communities.
Like fentanyl, methamphetamine can be made cheap and very potent – making it lucrative to expanding profits in the drug business. Cartels and drug organizations see this and have been capitalizing on the opportunity for further profit -- with an unbounded disregard for human life.
It has proven to be a drain on vital resources across large areas and the drug poses a serious threat to law enforcement and emergency responders. Users of meth are prone to violent and neglectful behaviors, and often inflict physical and psychological harm, not only on themselves but also on their children, families, neighbors, and members of their community.
The methamphetamine seen flooding Virginia is also being converted into “ice” (or crystal form). The “conversion labs” where this takes place are extremely dangerous to the neighborhoods they are in, as well as the environment.
This is the stuff Mexican cartels are pumping into our neighborhoods by the ton. This is the stuff that’s killing people and causing violent crime. This is the stuff that’s keeping towns, cities, and neighborhoods of every kind, less safe.
How We Can Stop It
DEA Washington Division is working hard every day, along with their federal, state, and local partners across the area to both stem the flow of this dangerous drug through increased enforcement, awareness, and education.
Targeting only the worst-of-the-worst criminals, the DEA, across Virginia and the U.S., work to identify violent drug-related criminals, their organization, methods and means, and sources, to ultimately disrupt and dismantle entire criminal networks trafficking meth and other dangerous drugs into our area.
In parallel, DEA Washington focuses efforts and programs with local area stakeholders and community service partners to increase awareness and educate the public about meth and related issues. Their community outreach and prevention programs are designed under a comprehensive and evidence-based strategy to educate residents, young adults, parents, and families about the dangers of meth, how they can help, and to encourage and support the family and friends of those struggling with addiction.
Programs offered across Virginia consist of prevention presentations by teams of law enforcement and substance abuse treatment professionals, parent trainings, school visits, workplace trainings, healthcare worker trainings, civic organization presentations, community events, and more.
Learning about the harmful effects meth can have on our communities, how we work together to keep it out, and how we can help each other make our communities safer, is the aim.
To learn more about meth, it’s health effects, trends, and how you can get help. Visit our partners at DrugAbuse.org
Together, we’re working to keep area families safe.