In rural Sussex County, New Jersey, Assistant Prosecutor Tom Reed’s worst fears have come true. A “meth lab,” the kind rarely seen in the Northeast, was discovered by agents this summer, allegedly operated by Steven G. Wade from Tennessee.
“It was just a matter of time until meth showed up here,” admits Reed.
According to statistics from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, America’s war on the white, bitter-tasting drug began in the west, but thrived in the plains of the Midwest and now has migrated to the east coast — and cities.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services says 12.3 million have tried meth, nearly 1 in 25 Americans, drawn in by the euphoric high that lasts for days.
Adam Chartier is a convicted meth user. “The habit I had,” says Chartier, “was quite costly, so I took the alternative route and I started to make it.”
The office of National Drug Control Policy says that new generation of so-called “meth cooks” has sent the number of meth-lab busts soaring from 912 in 1995 to 15.994 in 2004.
Dr. Robert Derlet, of the University of California Davis Medical School says meth is no longer the drug of blue-collar men. “Now it’s across the board, culturally— blue collar, white collar, men, women, homemakers,” says Derlet.
In fact, it’s women, like one soccer mom from a Chicago suburb who are most often seduced by meth. One reason is meth’s ability to help one lose weight.
Social service agencies are being flooded with children of addicted mothers.
Authorities say as bad as the epidemic is, the tools they’re using to fight it are proving just as effective. New laws restricting sales of meth’s key ingredients have cut down on arrests.
And in Oregon, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office posts “before-and-after” pictures of those convicted of meth-related crimes.
But is it enough to keep up?
Sussex County, New Jersey’s Tom Reed is fighting that battle. “My biggest concern,” says Reed, “is trying to run down all the other people that might have learned how to cook.”
Indeed, Sussex County made a second meth bust just last week, raising concerns this new version of America’s fiercest drug war is only beginning.