Meth Spreading In Rural Midwest, Western Areas


Methamphetamine use in Wyoming is more than twice the national average, says the U.S. federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The New York Times says that meth use crime also are overrunning rural counties in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, North Dakota, and the Texas Panhandle.

In Iowa, rapidly growing meth use is behind a surge in thefts of tractors and other heavy farm equipment, as well as burglaries in vacant farmsteads, said Todd Johnson, Audubon County sheriff. The methamphetamine trade has thrived there. It’s easy to cook locally because the county of 450 square miles has only 10 law enforcement officers, and a main meth ingredient – anhydrous ammonia – is an agricultural fertilizer that is abundant in bags on isolated farm fields.

Home-cooked methamphetamine is so common in Iowa, and so toxic, that the Legislature has made manufacturing it around children a form of child abuse. The state found almost 500 children who were exposed to cooking methamphetamine in 2002.

In Colorado, rural police officers and firefighters scrub down young children who have been crawling on the floor in houses where their parents have been cooking methamphetamine, said Susan Dreisbach, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado at Denver.

In Nebraska, crime has increased fourfold since methamphetamine became a serious problem in the mid-1990’s, as migrant workers working as meatpackers dealt the drug, said Glenn Kemp of the Adams County Sheriff’s office. “We never had a big crime problem in Nebraska till meth,” he said. “But now we have a lot of stabbings and shootings in our little towns and every homicide goes back to meth.”

In North Dakota, “Meth is the single most serious law enforcement issue that North Dakota is facing, and has ever faced,” said Attorney Genral Wayne Stenehjem. The number of meth labs seized in North Dakota jumped to 97 in 2002 from zero in 1998 and increased last year, says the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.


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