St. Lawrence County meth lab numbers dramatically up this year


Meth pipe. Photo:, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

We’ve been talking a lot in the last few months about the growth of heroin in the North Country. At the same time, the manufacture and use of methamphetamine in our region seem like they’re also growing.

We blogged last November about that possibility. Half a year later, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department is saying that since January, there have been nine methamphetamine labs found in St. Lawrence County, resulting in a total of 12 arrests.

I spoke with St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells, and he told me that’s a marked increase: “In St. Lawrence County, where we would have had zero meth lab clean ups last year we’re already at nine now. In St. Lawrence County it’s a public safety problem, not to mention a health problem.”

On May 30 in Lisbon, two more people were arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine. This was the third drug bust related to the meth within four days; it resulted in seven of the 12 arrests.

Meth is a vicious, highly addictive and immensely destructive drug. And it comes with its own set of special problems. One worry about meth (as opposed to heroin) is that you can make it yourself, and when people do, the process creates toxic fumes and is highly explosive.

Wells told me that with heroin, “you would have to worry about needles and such. But with meth, now you have a whole chemical composition you have to worry about and how volatile it is and what stage were they at and how much clean up is this going to take.”

As any curious person who’s tried to buy Sudafed and wondered why they had to provide a lot of information knows, many of the ingredients people use to make the drug are ones you can easily get locally (along with pseudoephedrine, things like ammonia, lye and red phosphorus you can scrape from matchbook covers). While that’s bad in the sense that it makes it easier to manufacture meth, Wells says it does make it easier to keep track of people who might be buying in excess.

“Sometimes you have to clear whole areas so that you can safely remove the product. As law enforcement, no matter what the agency is, if something happens, you have to make sure that you don’t have any civilians in there and it just makes everything that much more complicated.”

I’m working on a larger story about this issue, and in the next few weeks I’ll be learning a lot more, and we’ll be hearing more. In the meantime, what do you think? Is meth impacting your community? Is that news? And how do you feel police should deal with the problem?

5 Comments on “St. Lawrence County meth lab numbers dramatically up this year”

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  1. John Warren says:

    Taking the Sheriff department’s numbers as proof that meth is on the rise is not accurate and simply parrots the police narrative by making false claims about what increased drug arrests mean for overall drug use and manufacture.

    The number of arrests and seizures means that police are acting differently, not that drug use or manufacture is necessarily up.

    So, for example, the statement “Meth is a vicious, highly addictive and immensely destructive drug” is inaccurate (a few meth users might be vicious, but obviously meth is not). It’s also wildly out of context and unnecessary.

    Alcohol and cigarettes, and any number of other legal and / medical substances can also be described that way (the abuse of prescription drugs for example, and pot has been described that way for almost a century), but you would never describe the scourge of easily available or medically prescribed drugs in those terms – because they are manufactured by the rich, not the poor.

    Your reporting on drug use does not have to be couched in terms that make users evil scourges on our society.

    I would encourage you to learn more about how reporting on drugs has contributed to the destruction of millions of lives in false wars on drugs perpetrated by those who benefit (policing agencies) and abetted by their mouthpieces (reporters).

  2. bob cratchit says:

    Are you one of the “functional users” Mr. Warren? Sorry, if someone is hooked on meth, which evidence shows that it is “highly addictive” and destructive then that creates a public issue. Ever live near someone who used, manufactured or trafficked meth? Have you seen the child abuse or neglect that often accompanies the meth life? I certainly have way down in the South when it crept up on everyone. Regardless of how much you care for the reporting or law enforcement of this situation, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is a maleficent drug that almost always ends in death and destruction. In a civil society, those are two elements that are worthy of both public awarenes and law enforcement.

  3. John Warren says:

    Dear anonymous commenter.

    I did not say that meth was not a problem, or that it was not worthy of public awareness or law enforcement. Those are your fantasies about what I said.

    And hey, thanks for insinuating that I use meth – it highlights for readers the lack of reasoning skills evident in the rest of your comment.

  4. Mervel says:

    I would disagree John concerning Meth. I don’t know if we always need to use the adjectives, but it is indeed a uniquely destructive drug for those who use it. You don’t have casual Meth users in general, its properties do act in a way that makes it more highly addictive than other drugs, it causes more personal damage than many other drugs, including alcohol or pot, those are just facts.

    It is not some sort of drug war propaganda to speak out against the true destruction that Meth use causes among its users. Its well documented.

    Our concern about the abuses of the drug war, should not lead us to underplay the severe damage drugs like Meth do to individual lives and families.

  5. Mervel says:

    Personally I am not sure if meth usage is up or not from what I see working with people in the Burg. I would say that Prescription Pills and Heroin are still a bigger problem at this point. I have always been surprised that the North Country did not have more Meth usage, we share so many of the characteristics that other parts of the country that have severe meth problems have, things like being rural, having multi-generational poverty, high levels of unemployment etc.

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