Meth makes deadly comeback in Butler County

Crystal meth has made a deadly comeback in the region at a time when the opioid epidemic already is responsible for an alarmingly high body count.

Last year, methamphetamine appeared as a factor in the cause of death statements for eight people in Butler County, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office. This year so far there have been 12 such cases.

Heroin overdose cases are down, but meth usage is on the rise, officials say.

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Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser told our news partner WCPO that users are recognizing the higher risk of death from fentanyl-laced heroin and turning to an alternative.

"An awareness grew in the drug culture,” said Gmoser, “The user community started to realize that their chance of dying from fentanyl-laced heroin was increasing exponentially."

“The users have been going to something else that they believe may be more reliable in not killing them, and it’s methamphetamine,” Gmoser said.

Police are finding meth most often in a form known as "ice meth."

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"It's just everywhere right now, so the cost has just dropped so far it just makes it easier for them to get," Middletown Police Maj. David Burk told WCPO.

In the Midwest, more workers are testing positive for the drug, and some experts predict the crystal meth problem is going to get worse.

“Everything I hear is that it’s not getting better — it’s getting worse,” said Robert Carlson, a professor in the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.

Methamphetamine use exploded in the 1990s and early 2000s, but then came a national crackdown on the drug.

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State and federal laws put tough new restrictions on the sales of certain over-the-counter cold medicines that have pseudoephedrine, a main ingredient used to make the powerful stimulant.

Now in Ohio, retailers must check people’s IDs and run their information through a database to ensure they cannot purchase more than a certain “reasonable” amount of pseudoephedrine.

Retailers are required to keep products containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter or in locked display cases that customers cannot directly access.

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Meth poses “tremendous” cardiovascular risks and increased risks for heart attacks, and also it is highly addictive and can cause anxiety, confusion, insomnia, hallucinations, paranoia, violent behavior and severe tooth decay, said Carlson, the professor who is also the director of the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research at Boonshoft School of Medicine.

Some local drug users say that meth’s availability right now is nearly on par with heroin and fentanyl, and large-scale dealers apparently are trying to diversify their offerings on the drug market, Carlson said.

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