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Alarming rise in methamphetamine usage connected to rise in poverty

Meth Bust in Fort Dodge Photo by Liv Klassen | Photo Editor

In February, the Fort Dodge Police Department and Webster County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on 37-year-old Amanda Hinton’s residence.

“We received an anonymous tip a few months ago regarding Ms. Hinton and had since been gathering evidence to execute a search of her home,” said Fort Dodge Police Captain Dennis Quinn.

On Feb. 10, they arrested Hinton and six teenagers. Hinton was charged with child endangerment, possession of an illegal firearm, assault of a police officer, conspiracy to commit a felony and possession of drug paraphernalia, including methamphetamine.

The six minor’s charges ranged from possession of illegal firearms, assaulting a police officer and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

Quinn said they seized a large quantity of paraphernalia, a majority of it being meth, though he said there was no evidence suggesting any of it had been cooked in the home.

This bust is part of a larger rise in meth busts across the rest of Iowa and the U.S. In February, four men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport meth, and another pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Investigators in this case discovered and seized up to 60 pounds of meth transported from Los Angeles to Cedar Rapids. 

Sixteen were also arrested in Orlando, Florida in a major meth lab bust in February.

According to the Public Science Collaborative’s executive summary on meth use in Iowa, meth use in the state is increasing at a faster rate than the rest of the Midwest and the nation. 

“The National Drug Threat Assessment speculates that changes in the chemical profile and supply network of [meth] may have resulted in its penetration into new markets,” the summary states. “We can confirm new markets are emerging in Iowa. Methamphetamine is spreading from rural to urban places, from lower to higher education groups and from younger to older ages.”

The summary ranks Iowa as #2 behind North Dakota in the northern Midwest– consisting of Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota– for both meth use and overdoses with numbers still rising and exceeding the national average. It states meth in Iowa is more of an issue than any other substance including alcohol, opioids and heroin. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration has also reported an uptick nationwide in the production and distribution of meth. Since the beginning of the calendar year, they’ve seized almost 50,000 pounds of meth, which is just over a quarter of the amount seized in 2022.

Since 2019, Iowa has seen an influx of high-grade meth produced and distributed, according to the Iowa Drug Control Strategy Annual Report. With a slight decrease in 2020, law enforcement officials report an increase in quantity and quality of meth being smuggled from outside of Iowa, with a majority of it coming from countries like Mexico.

“[Law enforcement] report intercepting large shipments of high purity meth with increased frequency of usage in many Iowa communities,” the report states.

The report also states that since 2020 there have been 159 meth overdose deaths in Iowa. Though the report states demand for the addictive stimulant remains strong, meth-related treatment admissions are at an all time high. People seeking treatment for meth usage has increased by nearly 84%.

“We’ve noticed a concerning correlation between families struggling with poverty and families struggling with substance abuse,” said Anne Bacon, the CEO of ImpactCap, a nonprofit organization around Iowa that helps provide food, utilities and housing for families living in poverty.

While Bacon said substance abuse isn’t the only cause of poverty, she has noticed a rise in the amount of families seeking aid with at least one member who’s been arrested or is seeking treatment for drug abuse.

“The sad truth is, it boils down to money, and drug dealing is a money maker for some people,” Bacon said. “Sometimes it’s the only way for people to get by when even financial aid programs aren’t enough.”

The Iowa PSC report also states people seeking treatment and getting help for meth usage is on the rise.

“We concur that culturally appropriate and community-based prevention, treatment and recovery resources are needed,” the report said.

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