Is meth becoming a bigger problem in the North Country?

Methamphetamine seized at the U.S. border with Mexico. Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Methamphetamine seized at the U.S. border with Mexico. Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

We’ve all heard about methamphetamine. More casually known as meth, it first became widespread in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Its use became terrifyingly epidemic — but unlike crack and many other “street drugs,” meth addiction has been tearing up rural areas more than cities (here’s a 2004 NPR article talking about why that is, and a link to Nick Reding’s book Methland, which looks at the drug’s impact on a rural Iowa community.)

Although our region is certainly not drug free (police arrested 12 people on federal drug trafficking charges in Massena back in September, for example), meth has, thankfully, not had the kind of devastating presence in the North Country Adirondack region that it’s had in some others. But an article in today’s Glens Falls Post-Star suggests that the arrest of a 28-year-old man for cooking meth in the Washington County village of Hudson Falls may be indicative of the start of a larger trend, one for which police say they’ve been preparing for several years.

The paper reports that meth production has “spiked” in the past year or so, and Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy told the paper that a meth epidemic is the department’s “biggest fear.” “The biggest issue is it’s very volatile and dangerous. We’ve been told it’s just a matter of time.” A quick search reveals a number of meth arrests in the North Country over the last few months, including in WatertownSaranac, Mooers, and other towns and villages in the North Country.

It’s always scary when a dangerous new drug comes onto the scene and starts tearing up families and communities. I grew up in the 1980s, when crack cocaine was the terrifying new drug, and the damage attributed to both the drug itself and the trade in it, particularly in poor urban areas, was staggering. More recently, some of the most extreme problems crack was thought to cause have been questioned — “crack babies” aren’t the lost generation they’d been thought to be, for example, and much of the damage done to  communities may have stemmed from sentencing laws that punished crack possession and sales much more harshly than for other drugs (2010’s Fair Sentencing Act was an effort to reduce that disparity). No one’s saying crack’s a good thing, though, and for a kid like me it was absolutely terrifying.

So what’s your thought? Is our region bound to become “methland” if something’s not done? Is meth already in your area, and how are you seeing its impacts? And if the North Country’s going to be spared, what is it about our area that makes it less friendly to meth?

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23 Comments on “Is meth becoming a bigger problem in the North Country?”

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  1. Quick correction: Your link to a “Saranac Lake” meth arrest is actually to one in Saranac. Not that Saranac Lake hasn’t had any meth busts …

  2. oa says:

    It’s not a new drug. It’s been around for 30 years. It just took a long time for this area to figure out it’s the perfect drug for its demographic.

  3. Marlo Stanfield says:

    I’ve always wondered why meth hasn’t made the same inroads in the Northeast that it has in other parts of the country. It’s been around long enough that it should have. I always figured that it was because heroin and coke are cheaper here, due to the relative close proximity of NYC, that there’s no market for a third drug.

  4. NorthCountryLibertarian says:

    Maybe the state should decriminalize/legalize marijuana, so they can focus on these actual problem drugs. Or does that make too much sense?

  5. Pete Klein says:

    Legalize everything and let those who want to die from the drug of their choice, just as they now do with legal beverages.

  6. Mervel says:

    From what I have seen I think Marlo has it correct. The drugs we see more of are narcotics such as OXY and Vicoden etc, and cocaine and heroin.

  7. Ken Hall says:

    Any possibility that popular shows/films such as “Breaking Bad” have any influence over the illicit drugs of choice for local or not so local folks? My contention is “YES” inasmuch as the marketing gurus obviously think so, e.g., cigarette smoking, drinking of alcoholic beverages and automobile placements in shows and films.

  8. Mervel says:

    I think you are correct Ken.

    Its funny how different drugs have different reputations and social acceptance. Heroin is on the bad side, unless you are a model then it is considered cool, crack is always on the bad side, cocaine is OK and narcotics like OXY are more understandable to the public. Look at the Toronto mayor, all of the crazy stuff he has done, but the one thing that people are all worked up about is that he smoked crack once or twice. I mean the guy has been investigated for beating his wife, he has fully admitted to regularly being in a “drunken Stupor” and somehow smoking crack is the thing that puts it all over the line?

  9. Mervel says:

    I work with people who are often involved in addiction or illegal drug use, the one thing I see that stands out in the North Country is prescription drug abuse 1st, cocaine/crack second and heroin third and some meth use, but its not as big as the first three at least from what I see. But this is a non-statistical sample and I am not including pot or alcohol abuse which is of course by far the most common.

  10. oa says:

    Have you seen Breaking Bad? It’s not exactly an ad for the meth-user lifestyle.

  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Cocaine appears to be the choice of Tea Party Congressmen and crack (along with copious amounts of alcohol) is the popular drug for Canadian conservatives. Pain killers are the choice of right wing talk show hosts.

  12. Marlo Stanfield says:

    I wonder sometimes if heroin is going to get bigger in the North Country. As Mervel said, prescription drugs are definitely the most commonly abused ones, but with I-STOP and with doctors in general being more aware and cautious of overprescription, I imagine their availability is going to fall. Prescription painkiller addiction is already fueling the growth in heroin use in some parts of the state — it’s the same kind of high, much cheaper and in many communities it’s far more readily available. And heroin is cheaper and purer than it used to be.

    I really doubt meth is going to become a trend. Even if it grows it’ll probably be a niche thing, like angel dust. I think a huge part of why it’s so big in the Southwest and West is because it’s manufactured in such huge quantities in Mexico, so it’s readily available in large quantities. Unless he’s Walter White, some dude in a trailer in Hudson Falls or Saranac is not going to be making enough to supply a large number of people.

  13. Two Cent says:

    people have been altering their minds since prehistoric era. what they use is commentary.
    …but I can say i’d rather see marijuana cultivation rather than chemical kitchens, east, west, south or north country.
    prescription drugs are everywhere, even discarded meds showing up in water supplies.
    chemicals are bad MMmmmkay?

  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Let’s compare drug use with childbirth. For millions of years of human and pre human existence women gave birth naturally alone or with the help of midwifes. There were many dangers of childbirth but it wasn’t a profit center for corporations until recently. Similarly, since the dawn of human time people have used natural plants to alter their consciousness, but until modern chemistry and modern political structures got involved it wasn’t a hugely profit making business. Now that we can invent new drugs that are more dangerous than the natural drugs they replaced and the natural drugs have mostly become illegal – except for coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol – the mind altering environment has become very expensive and dangerous to society. And they keep coming up with ways to get people to use more drugs unnecessarily – take Viagra for example.

    We would all be better off if pot, magic mushrooms and coca leaves, even opium (un-refined) were decriminalized.
    Manufactured drug are dangerous.

  15. Pete Klein says:

    You could kill off the illegal trade in marijuana if you allowed people to grow one or two plants for their own use.
    They really are a pretty plant even if you were just to have one for their beauty.
    I once knew some nice old lady who had one but didn’t know it was a marijuana plant.

  16. Mervel says:

    Highly addictive narcotics such as prescription pain meds and heroin are certainly more dangerous to society and more importantly to our families and people we care about than pot or natural drugs. I do think that there is something to what knuckle is saying about being a profit center. The USA uses most of the prescription pain meds made in the world, why is that, do we have more pain? No it is profitable and has been pushed by US drug corporations. They are very useful drugs for acute post surgery pain for example or for end of life care, those are very legitimate uses. However they are not medicine they cure nothing and should not be given out for chronic pain pain in my opinion.

    What we need is for drug companies to develop non-addicting, non-narcotic safer pain medications. But some people will always search to get high the question is how much damage that does to our community? I think meth is particularly bad but as Marlo says, I don’t think there is the ability for large scale manufacture here and we have other drugs already that people seem to be using.

  17. Ken Hall says:

    oa asks; “Have you seen Breaking Bad?” and then states “It’s not exactly an ad for the meth-user lifestyle.”

    Yes I have watched the first 5 seasons of “Breaking Bad” and I agree that it would not have ever influenced me to try the meth or any other mind altering drug induced lifestyle; however, that is likely because of my upbringing, where I was brought up, my temperance and my distaste for all forms of marketing advertisement. In as much as $1/2Trillion are estimated to have been spent by the marketing gurus, in 2011, to convince folks to buy everything from tooth paste to Mercedes automobiles in the US, I have observed that the young and inexperienced are the primary targets and consumers of such marketing ploy offers. Just the placement of products in films and TV shows with no overt sales pitches are obviously effective since they have been used in films for about 100 years and on TV since it’s inception and to a lesser extent in print.

    A jaunt through the internet whilst performing a “product placement” search will fill your reading basket to overflowing with examples of the effectiveness of its’ use. Therefore if merely showing the drinking of specific beverage or the driving of particular vehicles can influence the procurement of same; how is it possible to not recognize the influence that an entire 6 season TV series entirely devoted to the production and selling of a mind altering drug, methamphetamine, would have on the younger folks and likely some not so young?

  18. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Ken, I think you’re missing the fact that illicit drugs don’t have a marketing budget like coffee, cigarettes, beer, wine, and liquor, or anything else. In fact, all the advertising dollars are spent on ludicrously bad marketing to stop people from using illicit drugs that nobody is promoting through ad campaigns. Meth was around for a couple of decades before Breaking Bad.

  19. mervel says:

    The interesting thing to your point knuckle will be what will be the impact of marketing and mass production of pot when it is fully legalized for recreational use? I know that the major consumer goods and tobacco companies are preparing for that, copy writing names, looking at production processes etc.

    Meth was always the poor man’s coke a very harsh drug, basically made of toxic chemicals. I don’t think it is going anywhere its too easy to make.

  20. oa says:

    With all due respect, across the country it appears “Breaking Bad” may have had the opposite effect on meth use.
    From the story…”Meanwhile, methamphetamine use, which raced across the USA for a decade, has declined sharply. The number of past-month users fell from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010….”

    That means U.S. use dropped substantially after the show’s debut. (I know, I know, it’s probably coincidental, not causal.)
    The North Country, for good or ill, just isn’t very hep, and is behind the curve.

  21. SESZOO says:

    From the news reports out of the Plattsburg area this past spring and summer ,the police had a few dealings with the meth problem out that way, But it doesn’t matter when it comes to being addicted to meth or heroin or Rx drugs and coke it’ll affect everyone from ruined neighborhoods to the kids down the street stealing and robbing from even their own grandmother if need be .Just ask any of the officers in the towns around here , where most of the trouble eventually leads back to , Too much money to be made and not enough education or jobs to otherwise keep people away from the lure .They go out and take one dealer out and another one seems to jump right into place .These hard drugs aren’t like smoking a joint and eating the last bag of potato chips ,Years ago I volunteered at some rehabs and when some one is hooked they are liable to do anything to get a fix , So if someone thinks it won’t affect them they are fooling themselves and if we’re hearing a little about this now around here there’s probably a lot more that we don’t hear about ,

  22. Mervel says:

    Its true. A lot of crime really stems from heavily addicted individuals (not pot smokers or even drunks), but people who are fully addicted to narcotics or stimulants doing whatever it takes to feed the addiction. This stuff is savage, it really does ruin families and lives, which impacts our entire community.

  23. Mervel says:

    Everyday you have a problem, you need some amount of money to get high with or you will go into withdrawal and get really sick and sometimes without medical help in withdrawal you can die. So you do whatever it takes. So how many of those types of people can a community have without really hurting the community?

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