Most of Texas County, Mo.’s 23,000 residents are asleep by midnight; the sheriff’s department stops patrols at 3 a.m. That’s when the county’s fastest-growing industry–methamphetamine–gets cooking, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Meth is sold in powder, crystal, and liquid form. Users can snort it, but more often they smoke it from pipes or inject it into their veins. It’s a cheap high that, for the cost of a single dose of crack, can keep users in a state of sleepless euphoria – or manic paranoia – for days.
This week, Missouri Gov. Bob Holden will call for a new offensive against meth. He’s expected to push for more prevention and treatment programs, especially in rural areas hit hardest by the drug. Holden praised the work of the police but told the Post-Dispatch that it’s time “to start solving the problem, not just managing the problem.” For police, “managing the problem” has been tough, expensive, and dangerous work. It seems to have little effect on the amount of meth on the street.
In 2001 and 2002, Missouri led the nation in the number of methamphetamine labs discovered by police. Missouri’s meth belt–43 rural counties–is home to under 30 percent of the state population, but it accounted for more than 60 percent of meth lab raids in recent years. Rural sheriffs and small-town narcotics investigators have hoped that the meth trade would level off, but many say they’re seeing more users and more sophisticated meth-making labs. Police and addicts say if an accurate estimate of addictioin were possible, it would shock politicians, policymakers, and the public.