As heroin-related issues continue to plague Wisconsin, some experts claim another highly addictive drug, methamphetamine, may become a growing cause for concern.
The state is no exception to a national trend where areas see a correlated spike in heroin and methamphetamine usage, Currie Myers, Rasmussen College dean of justice studies and former FBI agent, said at a talk in Green Bay last week.
Department of Justice numbers reflect this increase in use, with methamphetamine-related arrests in Wisconsin rising 86 percent between 2011 and 2012.
“Anytime I see a spike in heroin, I worry about meth coming in,” Myers said. “Heroin is the Cadillac of drugs, but meth isn’t far below it.”
Meth is a powerful stimulant that can be taken orally, smoked or injected, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and it increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in an individual’s nervous system, giving one a sense of euphoria.
The high from meth is short and exhilarating, but the long-term affects of the drug have proven to be detrimental and sometimes fatal, according to the institute.
James Bohn, assistant special agent in charge of the Milwaukee District office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, said meth rates in northwestern Wisconsin have begun to grow rapidly due to an increased presence of Mexican drug cartels in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.
“The growing meth issue in northwestern Wisconsin can be attributed to the growing cartel influence in the Twin Cities, and their reach is now spilling over into Wisconsin,” Bohn said.
Bohn said drug enforcement officials in Wisconsin are currently focusing most of their efforts on the state’s heroin epidemic, but recognize that the growing cartel and meth presence in areas like Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul are having a direct effect on meth usage in Wisconsin.
Communities with heroin issues often develop issues with meth because it is less expensive and usually easier to obtain than heroin, Myers said.
According to the DOJ, meth is made from cold tablets, alcohol, battery and dangerous amounts of ammonia, among other hazardous chemicals. This chemical concoction can cause skin ulcerations and infections as a result of picking at imaginary bugs, as well as prolonged anxiety, paranoia and depression. Many meth addicts suffer from nausea, seizures, paranoia and streaks of violence as a result of abuse.
The DOJ reported that meth usage more recently has seen a slight dip due to law enforcement agencies’ sting operations, shutting down home-made meth labs in Wisconsin.
However, Bohn said the state is threatened with increased flow of the drug because of the growing cartel influence and drug manufacturing.
“Even though the major meth problem in Wisconsin is flowing from the Twin Cities, Chicago is still a major hub for illegal drug trafficking,” Bohn said.
The DOJ estimates that meth addicts perpetrate 90 percent of identity thefts and that the drug has direct correlations with rises in property crimes and domestic abuse.