Drug seizures last year signaled an alarming trend, according to state law enforcement officials: Methamphetamine use has resurged worse than ever.
Nearly 489 pounds of methamphetamine were seized across the state last year by drug and violent crime task forces. That’s more than double the amount taken in 2015 and up nearly 500 percent since its lowest level in 2009.
“The methamphetamine is really off the charts in the state of Minnesota. We’ve never seen this before,” Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen said at a press conference Monday.
While it jumped statewide, the amount of methamphetamine seized by the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force dropped. Nearly 800 grams of the drug was seized last year by the task force that operates in Blue Earth, Nicollet, Watonwan and Martin counties. That was down from nearly 1,400 grams in 2015, according to data provided by Jeff Wersal, the task force’s commander.
Individual task force’s seizure numbers can be volatile year to year.
“One large case can spike the numbers in any given year,” Wersal said.
The local 2015 meth seizures spiked because of a substantial amount in a single case intercepted from the mail, he said.
While seizures went back down a bit, the commander said the amount of local meth activity was actually up last year.
Law enforcement have succeeded in curbing local meth manufacturing but the drug is continuing to be trafficked in from Mexico, according to Brian Marquart, state overseer of the drug task forces.
He said he believes the rise in meth use is largely because public education about the dangers of the drug has dropped off while the education focus has turned to opiates, heroin and synthetic drugs.
The resurgence of methamphetamine also is apparent in other data, state officials said.
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper noted that methamphetamine addiction is now the second highest reason for treatment admissions in the state behind alcohol. Nearly 11,600 methamphetamine abusers were treated last year, compared to 6,700 in 2005.
“What we’re seeing is extremely alarming,” she said. “It’s clear that meth is back.”
The health commissioner championed the need to make methamphetamine treatment more accessible and continuous.
Seizures of prescription drugs were at a five-year high across the state but not locally. Over 200,000 pills were taken statewide, a jump from fewer than 59,000 in 2015.
The Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force seized 950 prescription drugs last year, down from over 3,800 in 2015.
Illicit prescription drug cases have held relatively steady in the region, Wersal said.
The number of drug-related arrests made by the task force rose from 132 in 2015 to 159 in 2016.