Local, state, and federal authorities say the methamphetamine problem in Texas, both trafficking and consumption, has reached epidemic proportions, even as a new state law is making it more difficult to buy common cold medicines used by meth “cookers” to make the drug, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports. “We’ve classified it as our most significant drug trade right now,” said Pat O’Burke of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Along with the addiction, O’Burke said, there is plenty of “collateral damage.”
Investigators cite one case after another in which young children have been rescued from homes where meth kitchens spew toxic fumes, pose the threat of an explosion and attract unsavory characters. Jane Carlisle Maxwell of the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work, said that confirmed meth-related deaths have steadily risen in the state during the past several years, from 17 in 1997 to 99 in 2004. The new state law has sharply cut the number of meth labs in the state, butt it has done nothing to curb Texans’ appetite for the drug. Many of them are turning to a more potent form, known as “Mexican ice,” that is being transported over the Texas-Mexico border in record amounts. “We have a meth epidemic right now,” said Marcy Thomas of the Helen Farabee Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center in Wichita Falls. At a time when state and federal officials are acknowledging a real problem in Texas, police express dismay that the state is planning next month to cut off federal grants for drug task forces. State officials say there is not enough money to go around because federal funding for law enforcement has dropped more than 57 percent the past three years.