The number of methamphetamine-related fatal overdoses in Utah more than doubled in the past five years, as law enforcement has seen a stunning increase in large meth busts statewide, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Drug overdose deaths involving meth rose from 31 in 2010 to 217 in 2018, says the state Department of Public Health. That’s far more meth-related deaths than the previous high of 52 in 2006. “We keep hearing that meth is coming back, but it didn’t leave,” said Meghan Balough, a state epidemiologist. Public attention to meth, which led to new laws and widespread public awareness campaigns in the early- and mid-2000s, shifted to the deadlier opioid epidemic, said Brian Redd, chief of the State Bureau of Investigation for the Utah Department of Public Safety.
“About 2015, we started seeing these larger quantities of meth coming back, like we hadn’t seen since the late ′90s and early 2000s,” Redd said. “But the opioid epidemic was really surging at that point, and it really was overshadowing this growing meth issue.” Today, “the Mexican transnational criminal organizations are just flooding our market with methamphetamine,” he said. Prescription opioids have killed more Utahns than meth has each year. In 2007, there were 326 opioid-related overdose deaths, and 302 in 2014. In many overdose deaths, multiple drugs are involved. Opioid deaths have declined since then. In 2018, the state counted 274 prescription opioid fatalities, compared with the 217 meth fatalities. Market factors may explain meth’s rapid rise in Utah. A pound of meth costs $1,000 to $1,500, with a single hit going for $20. That’s about a tenth of the cost in the early 2000s. Meth use has been rising rapidly nationwide, but especially in the West, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.