New Health Hazzard – The Local Meth Lab

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A steady increase in the prevalence of meth labs has been a regular problem in the U.S. The 21st century has brought new difficulties related to meth abuse. One of the greatest changes in this new century is that, while the trafficking of methamphetamine into the United States is still a very real problem, more meth is now made in the United States than that which is trafficked into the country from other nations.

The statistics for meth labs operated on U.S. soil are quite alarming. The Drug Enforcement Administration keeps close track of these numbers. While more recent years have shown a slight dip in the numbers of meth labs found and “busted” by law enforcement, the numbers of labs nationwide are still incredibly high as compared to two decades prior. In 2014, 9,338 labs were found. 2013 saw 12,050 labs exposed, 2012 had 13,441 labs, 2011 brought out 13,423, and 2010 had a total of 15,220 meth labs exposed.

A Community Health Hazard

While the layman will generally know that meth is “bad” or “not good” at the very least, most do not know just how toxic and biochemically hazardous it is to have a meth lab nearby. Even once a meth lab is found and law enforcement has cleared out its users, cleaning up such a lab is dangerous and expensive. People who manufacture meth tend to dump their chemical waste from the cooking process into the ground, into rivers, near lakes, and in nearby forests or fields. This waste includes battery acid, toxic materials, solvents, and acidic compounds. Such chemicals are a biohazard to humans, wildlife, and the entire eco-system for that matter.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, making one pound of meth creates six pounds of toxic waste that is rarely ethically disposed of. Furthermore, meth lab refuse often leaves permanent damage to the area. Even with the best technology that we have, the area surrounding a meth lab will still be somewhat toxic even months after cleaning it up. Chemicals used in the manufacture of meth are corrosive, explosive, toxic, highly flammable, and even radioactive to some degree. Such chemicals (after filtering into the local groundwater) harm an entire area’s eco-system.

Why a Lack of Readily Available Treatment Options Contributes to the Meth Epidemic

It does not take a genius to understand that one simply should not take meth. The evidence is all there with the immediate side effects that one gets from taking this drug. When a person takes meth, the drug stimulates the body’s central nervous system where it connects to the brain. This stimulation produces extremely excessive levels of neurotoxins. This overloads the brain in an unhealthy manner. When a person begins to take meth with any kind of frequency, the drug eliminates key brain functions. This also leads to psychosis, neurosis, and a plethora of other negative mental and physical phenomena. Meth use can also cause respiratory problems and lung damage, irregular, faint heartbeat, tooth decay, gum disease, cardiovascular difficulties, and even death.

Perhaps a unique indicator of an area that is heavily influenced by meth abuse is that area will also have a significant lack of addiction treatment centers. This occurs on a county level and even a state-wide level. When people, especially young people, do not have an opportunity to get nearby help, they will simply continue their habit. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the areas affected most by meth abuse are geographically large counties, usually rural, and particularly underprivileged and under-funded. While other drugs are found in more urban and suburban areas, meth and meth labs are almost always found in lower-class or poverty-class, rural counties that have very little access to treatment. The demand for meth in such areas grows as peer pressure and drug pushing increases the local population of meth addicts, therefore resulting in more meth labs.

The top five states in the U.S. for meth addiction (and hazardous meth labs) are:

  • Indiana, with 1,797 meth lab busts in 2013. Indiana only has about three drug rehabs for every one-hundred-thousand residents. The national average is five rehabs for every one-hundred-thousand residents, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Tennessee, with 1,616 meth lab busts in 2013. Tennessee spends $1.6 billion fighting meth use, and the state is just now starting to increase their treatment approach too. For the time being, however, the state struggles with less than two drug rehabs per one-hundred thousand residents.
  • Missouri, with 1,495 meth lab busts in 2013. Missouri used to be number one on the list but has dropped in the last few years, thanks to increased treatment tactics. Still, there are only about four rehabs for every one-hundred-thousand residents in this state.
  • Ohio, with 1,010 meth lab busts in 2013, up from only 709 in the year prior. Coincidentally, Ohio has been experiencing rampant drug problems with all substances. The state only has about 1.8 rehabs for every one-hundred-thousand residents.
  • Illinois, with 673 meth lab busts in 2013. Meth abuse is strongly penalized in Illinois, though treatment is not available nearly to the degree that it should be. 12.8 million people live in Illinois, yet the state barely has two rehab facilities for every one-hundred-thousand residents.

Treatment for addiction must be the answer. Efficient drug rehab has to be available for all who struggle with a habit, even those in underserved, rural counties. With treatment, the population of meth addicts will go down, and as that population drops, so will addicts’ demand for meth labs.

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