When it comes to the issue of Meth in Maine, there seems to be a lot of good news and bad news. While it may not be the biggest drug concern in the state, the danger of making meth is enough to divert important resources from law enforcement.
2016 was a bad year for the state of Maine when it came to methamphetamine. According to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, authorities responded to 123 meth-related incidents. That’s an average of one incident every three days and more than double the 56 responses in 2015.
So why the sudden spike in meth? Peter Arno of MDEA….
“I think it’s attributable to a few things. One obviously is a growing addicted population. I think one of the other reasons we’re seeing such a spike over previous years is the fact that we’ve come out, and other agencies have come out, with some training for first responders so that they are better able to identify maybe some of the components that are used maybe in meth manufacturing. “
Arno says new training and better identification of labs is leading to busts at fires and other domestic incidents across Maine. More often than not, first responders are finding one particular type of lab.
“There are several ways to manufacture methamphetamine or ‘cook meth.’ The most common way that we are seeing here in the past year or so is this one-pot or ‘shake and bake’ method. Generally it is an energy drink bottle that has a little thicker plastic.”
For the one-pot method, ingredients are mixed in to the bottle until they crystallize in to meth. The chemical reactions can lead to potentially dangerous results both during and well after the cook.
“Just because they are discarded does not mean that they are safe to handle,” says Arno. “They are still toxic. Lots of times the chemical reaction can still reinitiate and create fire and build pressure inside the bottle, so we need to respond to those.”
Arno acknowledges that the upswing in meth incidents is concerning. But he also says meth is far from the biggest drug problem in Maine, and using department resources to respond to and clean meth labs tends to divert much needed resources.
“It really is in some sense an unfortunate but necessary distraction that we have to deal with these because there are higher priorities for Maine Drug Enforcement right now with the opioid crisis in the state. A high number of the (meth) cases, you know, they occur in multi-unit apartment buildings, lots of times there are children present, and the fact of the matter is that these things sometimes catch on fire and blow up.”
MDEA does not believe meth is being highly trafficked in the state. Instead, a lot of manufacturing is being used for personal use.
“Most typically what we’ve been seeing is addicts are cooking meth for themselves. You know, between the hardware store and the local pharmacy they can typically obtain everything they need to manufacture methamphetamine through this one-pot or ‘shake and bake’ method.”
And while meth use seems to be trending downward nation-wide, Arno urges caution, saying that doesn’t mean the problem is coming to an end.
“We will probably see meth labs start to decrease, these one-pot meth labs. But what we’ll see behind that are enterprising drug traffickers who are bringing in mostly Mexican methamphetamine.”