As the total of meth labs broken up by federal authorities has jumped from 327 in 1995 to 13,092 in 2001, more than 500 have been found in Oregon, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Last week, Oregon took the dramatic step of restricting the sale of nonprescription cold medicines that can be used to make meth, a move being considered by many other states. “Meth labs exist in Oregon homes, hotels, motels, apartments and even in automobiles,” says Gov. Ted Kulongoski. “They are just as likely to be found in rural communities as they are in big cities, leading some experts to call this the first rural drug epidemic.” Unlike imported hard drugs such as heroine or cocaine, large quantities of meth are produced domestically by many thousands of people and used by an estimated 1.5 million people a year.
Meth is much more likely than other illegal drugs to be abused by women. Police Chief Walt Myers of Salem, Ore., estimates that meth is involved in at least 90 percent of all property crimes, half of all domestic-violence cases, and one-third of all child-abuse incidents in his jurisdiction. In Oregon, meth is the single-greatest factor in children being removed from their homes and placed in foster care. “In Salem, a baby is born every week addicted to methamphetamine,” Chief Myers wrote recently. In at least one case, a baby died of an overdose from the milk of a mother loaded with meth.