As the state continues to fight against the growing opioid epidemic, an emerging trend of abuse among Wisconsin residents has prompted concern from legislators.
A 2016 Wisconsin Department of Justice methamphetamine study indicated a 250 percent increase in meth abuse from 2011 to 2015.
During a Friday legislative informational hearing, Attorney General Brad Schimel, along with representatives from the Legislature, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, discussed some of the challenges of meth abuse in Wisconsin.
“Meth is notorious for not only destroying the user but the entire family and community around each user,” Schimel said.
The meth production process is harmful for children and the environment as parents expose their children to fumes by using their own homes as meth labs, a presentation at the hearing noted.
Along with meth abuse, meth purity, or the quality of the product, increased 22 percent in 2011 to 48 percent in 2015. Increasing meth’s quality can potentially make it more enticing for users.
The study noted former opioid users have switched over to meth as a “safer alternative” to heroin, which accounts for the increase in meth use in Wisconsin.
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Part of the rise in meth use is due to Wisconsin’s shortage of treatment facilities for users. Compared to opioid, marijuana and alcohol treatment facilities, meth treatment tends to be longer and more expensive.
The study also revealed the number of individuals who were charged for meth possession increased from 165 to 636 between 2010 and 2014.
As meth abuse becomes a growing problem, the Madison Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee discussed its effects as a state problem. The chair of the committee, Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, said it is essential for law enforcement agencies and lawmakers to work together to combat the issue.
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One way the committee recommended targeting the problem is tracking the purchases of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, which are key ingredients for meth.
“We’re lucky in Wisconsin to have a Department of Justice that has been dedicated to addressing this problem, and the Legislature should be prepared to assist in any way we can,” Spiros said. “Meth has become a problem in my own area of the state, and I’m looking forward to helping in the next steps to cut down on meth abuse and make our communities safer.”