Denver police seized nearly as much methamphetamine in the first six months of 2002 as they did in all of last year, according to a recent stu dy by CSU Cooperative Extension and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
In 2001, Denver police seized 36,536 grams of methamphetamine. In the first six months of this year, 32,301 grams were seized. The study, conducted for a team called “Finding a Solution Task Force,” shows that the use and production of methamphetamine drugs are on the rise in many communities in northeastern Colorado as well.
The study focused on Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, and Yuma counties, an 11,432-square-mile agricultural-dependent area with a population of 77,680 in northeastern Colorado.
“Rural areas have become a target for methamphetamine labs because chemicals necessary for its production, such as those in fertilizers, are readily available in farming communities,” said Lilias Jarding, CSU Cooperative Extension community development specialist. “The labs can be located in isolated areas which helps manufacturers hide the associated traffic and manufacturing process.”
Mehtamphetamine use is also on the rise in Fort Collins, according to Jim Weber, assistant director of the Drug and Alcohol Education Center at CSU.
“Methamphetamine use is definitely on the increase, especially on the high school level,” Weber said. “There has been some increase at CSU but it doesn’t seem to be quite as popular with college students.”
The study of northeastern Colorado looked at costs incurred by agencies associated with drug use that were traced back to methamphetmine use or production. Government agency costs related to addressing methamphetamine-related problems also increased almost $1 million from 1999 to 2001.
These expenses involved child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, mental health, family violence, emergency health services, law enforcement, court costs, fire damage and control and property damage. Agency officials estimate that direct costs increased 31 percent and indirect costs rose 94 percent from 1999 to 2001.
“The monetary costs to these counties – not to mention the emotional costs or the loss of human potential to drugs – are relatively new,” Jarding said.
The problem also is compounded because most rural areas lack the drug treatment options available in metropolitan areas, and rural communities have a difficult time attracting and keeping counselors.
Major highways within the area of the study provide easy access to metropolitan communities and the isolated locations help manufactures hide the smell of methamphetamine production.
“This study provides a useful starting point for the task force,” said Trisha Bentz, a political science graduate student. “This information will help the task force address the problem by finding existing resources, increasing chemical dependency treatment options, looking into developing a drug court in the region, finding funding to deal with the impacts of methamphetamine use and manufacture and working to increase public education about this drug in rural areas.”
Experts within the community cite increased rates of child abuse and neglect, psychotic episodes, violence, work and school absenteeism, unemployment, fraud and financial problems.
Police officials said meth is the state’s biggest drug threat because it is very addictive and can explode during the manufacturing process.
Weber said methamphetamine isn’t the most widely used drug in Colorado, marijuania and cocaine are. However, it is the biggest drug concern.
“Methamphetamine use is on the rise everywhere,” Weber said. “It is not a problem that is unique to Colorado.”