Meth Makes A Rural Comeback In The Shadow Of The Opioid Crisis

By Beth Leipholtz 10/12/18

“They came in with much purer, much cheaper meth and just flooded this region of the country,” says one DEA agent.

Farmer feeding cattle

While the opioid epidemic has been at the forefront of headlines and national attention, another danger has also been growing in the background: the use of methamphetamine in small, rural areas of the country. 

According to Rolling Stone, meth was previously prominent in the 1990s due to “new synthesizing methods,” which allowed individuals to use cold medicine and cleaning products to create the drug in their homes.

Eventually, due to limiting over-the-counter access to certain medications via the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (2006), domestic meth lab seizures dropped drastically. 

However, this wasn’t because meth ceased to exist, Rolling Stone notes. Instead, the market reportedly shifted to Mexico, where “superlabs” managed by Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel can create a large quantity of the drug in pure form and at cheap rates. 

Such superlabs can cook hundreds of pounds of meth daily and at 95 to 99% purity. And, according to CNN, an ounce of meth today goes for $250 to $450 in Oklahoma, versus the $1,100 it cost in 2012. Similar price drops have been reported in Virginia, Ohio and Florida.

In addition to price drops, certain states are also seeing increases in meth-related deaths. In Oklahoma, fatal meth overdoses have doubled in just five years. 

“They came in with much purer, much cheaper meth and just flooded this region of the country,” DEA Agent Richard Salter told CNN

Oklahoma isn’t alone. In Alaska, Rolling Stone reports, meth overdoses quadrupled in the eight years between 2008 and 2016. Florida, according to the Department of Law Enforcement’s 2016 report, is seeing fatal overdoses four times higher than they were six years ago. And, according to a recent report, meth seizures have tripled within two years in Southwest Virginia.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that meth seizures have increased tenfold in the past eight years—from 8,900 pounds in 2010 to about 82,000 pounds so far this year. Despite that fact, the drug is still making its way into U.S. states like California and Arizona, then being taken to distribution areas like Atlanta.

From there, it makes its way into smaller, rural areas. 

Mark Woodward, spokesman with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, tells CNN that while attention is being directed to the opioid epidemic, meth is being left behind. 

"There's so much attention—not just in Oklahoma, but nationwide—on the opioid crisis," Woodward said. "But our single most deadly individual drug is methamphetamine."

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.