While prescription pills have dominated this area’s focus in the war on drugs, police say a more powerful drug is now in their sights-crystal methamphetamine.
Crystal meth, also known as ‘ice’ has landed in Knox County and is becoming more prevalent than locally produced methamphetamine, according to sheriff Mike Smith.
In recent months, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office has made busts involving significant quantities of crystal meth. “Our largest bust was three and three and a half pounds,” said Smith.
“It generates from Mexico. One of the reasons for that is there’s no restriction on pseudoephedrine (a key ingredient in making meth),” offered Smith. He continued, “Then it trickles into the U.S. Where we find that we get most of our major quantities is through Louisville and Atlanta.”
Like a scene from popular television series “Breaking Bad,” drug cartels pushing their crystal meth is a very real problem for Knox Countians and Kentuckians in general.
“It’s hard to say because it affects so many, but I’d say 80-85% of our arrests are meth-related,” said Smith.
Cartels are using “super labs” to mass produce large quantities, which means the drug is cheaper, appealing to more and more appealing to users.
Crystal meth is distinguished from locally-produced meth easily based on how it looks. According to Smith, crystal meth is distinguishable visually. “You can tell by the color. There’s a reason they call it crystal meth… it looks like ice. It’s pure white.” “Shake and bake that used to be a thing here looked more yellow, tar-ish in color.”
Compared to the old ammonia odor from the “shake and bake” method of making meth, crystal meth is almost indistinguishable by odor.
The clarity of this meth makes the drug extremely more powerful than anything ever produced in this area.
The contact risks for law enforcement and other responders isn’t as dire as opioids and synthetics such as fentynal. “Thank God,” Smith said. “It’s more contained and you’d have to insert it in your body to get the effect.”
Smith warns that anyone who simply comes in contact with suspected crystal meth should contact their medical provider or the hospital to be safe.
The problem of crystal meth was first spotted in western Kentucky and has now made its way into eastern Kentucky.
“High purity cartel-produced meth has been flooding west Kentucky for several years,” U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman, the top federal prosecutor for the western district of Kentucky, recently told the Louisville Courier-Journal.
He said his office is targeting “traffickers of this poison and offering a warning; unlike opiates which kill users and destroys families, meth is a drug of violence—it’s a public safety risk, and we all have a role to play in defeating this threat.”
Not only is the safety of the officers at risk, the general public as well, according to Clay County Sheriff Patrick Robinson.
“You can’t predict what people on crystal meth will do,” he said. “The hallucinations associated with crystal meth is extremely more powerful than anything we’ve seen before. They become out-of-control and extremely dangerous. The public needs to use extreme caution when dealing with someone acting erratic and call 911 immediately.”
Heather Gibson, vice-president of program services for The Healing Center of Louisville, agreed with the assessment of violence associated with the drug, in a recent article in the Courier-Journal.
“The problem with meth is that intoxication causes unpredictable behavior, paranoia, delusions, psychosis and is sometimes scary to people who don’t know what it looks like,” Gibson wrote.
Due to the high volume and cheaper prices, prescription pills are quickly taking second place to crystal meth.
“Crystal meth is the most prevalent illegal drug found in our county,” said Smith. “Crystal meth is more of a problem for us.”