Pestilence Update

While America wages war on opioids, meth makes its comeback

Blog note: And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. (Luke 21:11). Jesus is giving a series of prophecies about what to look for as the age of grace comes to a close. This verse from Luke is one of many such prophecies from throughout the Bible. 2017 was the worst year in recorded history for the intensity, frequency, severity, duration and occurrence of a large number of severe natural disasters worldwide. Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, torrential flooding, unprecedented wildfires in unusual places, devastating droughts, excessive/scorching heat setting records everywhere, record snowfalls in Europe and Russia. Snow in the Arabia. This list can go on. Most studied eschatologists believe these ‘fearful sights’ and massive natural disasters are all part of the ‘CONVERGENCE’ of signs that this Biblical and prophetic age is closing. Most people who study prophecy are familiar with the routine reference(s) made that these things will be like a woman having labor pains that occur in greater severity, frequency, size and duration prior to giving birth. End of note.

While America wages war on opioids, meth makes its comeback

By Drew Kann, CNN. Updated 11:35 AM ET, Wed September 26, 2018

(CNN)For Capt. Mark Wollmershauser Jr. and the Tulsa Police Department, the late-2000s and early 2010s were an extremely dangerous time.

In Oklahoma, a state that is no stranger to the scourge of methamphetamine addiction, those years were the heyday of the “shake and bake” method — a rudimentary way of making meth using just cold medicine, some toxic chemicals and an empty two-liter bottle.

The technique is simple enough that many addicts can cook their own meth, but with one tiny misstep, the chemical reaction that occurs inside can cause deadly explosions. By 2011, Wollmershauser and his narcotics unit were finding and dismantling hundreds of these vessels in meth labs around the city. “People were not just burning themselves while cooking meth but were causing damage to other residents that had nothing to do with methamphetamine,” he said. “It was a really horrible time.”

When new laws were enacted to limit access to pseudoephedrine — an allergy drug used in making meth — the proliferation of these mobile labs waned. After responding to a high of 431 meth labs in 2011, his department encountered just 19 last year. But Wollmershauser said that didn’t spell the end of Tulsa’s meth problem. In fact, officials across the state say they are seizing meth that is purer, cheaper and in greater quantities than ever before, with most of it coming from south of the border.

And while much of America is focused on combating the devastating impacts of opioid addiction, some states like Oklahoma are struggling to fight a new battle against an old foe.

The role of Mexican ‘superlabs’

Richard Salter has been with the Drug Enforcement Administration for 27 years, most recently as the special agent in charge for the state of Oklahoma. He said the meth problem in Oklahoma is getting worse, and points to Mexican cartels — in particular, the powerful Sinaloa cartel — as the reason. As it became more difficult and dangerous to produce meth in the United States, cartels recognized an opportunity to fill the void.

“They came in with much purer, much cheaper meth and just flooded this region of the country,” Salter said. Salter said in 2012, the DEA was buying meth undercover off the streets for $1,100 an ounce. Today, his agents are regularly getting ounces for just $250 to $450.

“That’s as cheap as I have ever seen methamphetamine my entire career,” he said.

The reason for the drop in prices is the scale of production that the Mexican cartels have achieved. Whereas “shake and bake” labs could turn out lots of small batches, so-called “superlabs” in Mexico produce hundreds of pounds daily. Salter said most of the meth his agents seize first comes across the US-Mexico border in California or Arizona, before making its way through the interstate highway system and temporary stash houses on its way to Oklahoma. Along the border, officials with US Customs and Border Protection also report a steep increase in the amount of meth they are seizing.

Anne Maricich, deputy director of field operations for the agency’s San Diego ports of entry, said her field office has seen a 50% increase in the amount of meth seized compared to this time last year. “The other hard narcotics like cocaine, heroin and fentanyl, we see them — they’re prevalent at our border crossings, but nowhere near the quantities that we see of meth,” she said.

On the streets of Oklahoma, this influx of cheap and powerful meth has had deadly consequences. The number of lethal meth overdoses in the state has more than doubled in recent years, rising from 140 in 2012 to 335 deaths in 2016. In 2017, there were 327 meth overdose deaths, but that tally is incomplete and the actual number is likely higher, according to Mark Woodward, spokesman with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. “There’s so much attention — not just in Oklahoma, but nationwide — on the opioid crisis,” said Woodward. “But our single most deadly individual drug is methamphetamine.”

Perhaps no city has been hit harder by this latest meth epidemic than Tulsa. In just the first six months of 2018, Wollmershauser said his Special Investigations Division has already surpassed the amount of meth they seized in all of 2017 by 30 pounds.

He can’t explain why the problem is more severe here than in other parts of the state, but he doesn’t think incarceration is the solution. Wollmershauser said his department is trying to use more “front end diversion” tactics to help addicts get treatment without getting the criminal justice system involved, while also aggressively pursuing the cartels and other large-scale distributors.

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