Meth use graph

Findings from the 2017 Montana State Crime Lab report suggest that Montana is trouncing nationwide trends when it comes to methamphetamine use.

 According to the Pew Research Trusts, methamphetamine use nationwide from 2010 to 2015 has increased 3 to 4 percent for regular usage. In the most recent year where federal statistics are available, 4,900 people died of an overdose – this represents a “30 percent increase in one year,” according to Pew.

 In Montana, however, the State Crime Lab’s report finds a 375 percent increase in methamphetamine found in postmortem cases from 2011 to 2017; a 324 percent increase in methamphetamine found in DUI cases from 2011 to 2017;and a 415 percent increase in methamphetamine found in controlled substance cases from 2011 to 2017.

While the statistics are from different years and can be difficult to compare directly, they show a spike both nationwide and within Montana’s borders.

 “The State Crime Lab’s annual report confirms what we already knew:  Montana is in the midst of a substance abuse crisis,”Attorney General Tim Fox said in a statement.  

 The report also shows marked increases in heroin usage – a 1,234 percent increase found in controlled substance cases from 2011 to 2017. 

 “The report reflects astronomical increases in methamphetamine and heroin offenses, which have placed an added strain on the Lab as well as on our courts and jails,” said Fox in the same statement.

 According to the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, much of the methamphetamines that Americans use are largely being brought over the U.S. border from Mexico. The highest meth drug use is found in western states. The highest rate of import comes through southern California, followed by southwestern Texas. Domestic production of methamphetamines has been decreasing since 2006 according to the report.

 Fox says that the Montana Department of Justice is working to find solutions to the problem.

 “My office is working with stakeholders across the state to develop solutions to combat this epidemic through our Aid Montana initiative. Clearly, our communities can’t wait a minute longer for efficient and effective policies to be found.”

 The Aid Montana initiative was launched in 2017 in conjunction with the Montana Healthcare Foundation, in an effort to address Montana’s substance abuse problem. 

“Treatment, education, and coordination efforts are critical if we are to get ahead of this problem, and will be central components to our strategy,” the mission statement on the website says. 

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Methamphetamine, or its street name, “Meth” is taken by inhaling or smoking; in pill form, snorting or injecting the powder form that has been dissolved into water or alcohol. Because the drug enhances the chemical dopamine in the brain, but in short doses, those who take the drug tend to take it in repeated doses, binging and crashing.

 Short term impacts of the drug on the body include rapid and irregular heartbeat, faster breathing and decreased appetite. In the long term, users will see their teeth deteriorate with so-called “meth mouth,” intense itch, also known as addict itch, violent behavior, hallucinations and paranoia.

 In Montana alone, 17 people died from acute, single use meth usage in 2017 and four people died from acute, multi-day use.

Another notable statistic from the report is the rate of suicide, and then the rate of firearms in suicide and murder cases. Of those people where autopsies were performed on cases where an “unnatural cause of death” was suspected, 77 were found to be suicide, whereas 49 were found to be homicide. Thirteen of the suicide deaths found toxicology-related deaths. Fifty of the 77 suicide cases were attributable to firearm use; twenty-five of the 49 homicide cases were found to have involved firearms.