Recent Police Raids Show Meth Is the Biggest Drug Problem in Oklahoma
About 600 Oklahomans died from meth overdoses in 2021, compared to a fraction of that in previous years. What changed? According to local experts, fentanyl was added to the drug supply almost entirely without addicts knowing.
What the Law Enforcement Data Reveals
In the first few months of 2023, numerous news reports from Oklahoma-based media organizations highlighted several meth busts in the state. One, from January, outlined how the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics seized 251 pounds of meth in January 2023.
Another report outlined how, in 2022, law enforcement officers seized a whopping 3,500 pounds of meth, which far outpaced any other drug seized by law enforcement. Further, the amount of meth seized in 2022 broke all previous records for drug seizures in Oklahoma since recording began.
According to local law enforcement, the meth problem is so bad in Oklahoma that simply cracking down on gangs that traffic meth or make dangerous drug labs in Oklahoma is no longer enough. “We’ve got to do a better job of providing opportunities for treatment for people that are struggling with addiction—to get them off of it,” said Mark Woodward, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. “It’s a multi-pronged approach.”
In addition to being the most-seized drug in Oklahoma, meth is also causing a surge of deaths in the Sooner State. In fact, Oklahoma is unique in the U.S. in that it is the only state in the nation that records more meth-related deaths than deaths from all other drugs, even opioids. For example, in 2021, Oxycodone overdoses killed 43 Oklahomans, fentanyl killed 299, and meth killed 603.
According to Jessica Hawkins, Director of Community and Systems Initiatives for the Healthy Minds Oklahoma Policy Initiative, the opioid epidemic has obscured and worsened the state’s meth crisis. “We have referred to this as sort of the fourth wave of the opioid epidemic,” she said. According to Hawkins, this is not the first time Oklahoma has experienced an opioid epidemic followed by a stimulant epidemic. For example, heroin, followed by powder and crack cocaine in the 1980s and 1990s, was a serious issue in Oklahoma.
However, this is the first time a drug crisis has claimed this many lives in the Sooner State. According to local experts, potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl are being mixed into the meth supply. Meth is still cheaper and more prevalent than pure opioids, so addicts often opt for it. But they don’t know the meth they’re about to use may have a fatal dose of fentanyl in it.
Oklahoma’s Drug Problem at a Glance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Oklahoma recorded 762 overdose deaths in 2020, a rate of 19.4 fatalities for every 100,000 people in the state. While overdoses spiked again in 2021, overdoses declined in 2022, suggesting that the state is making progress.
Oklahoma has expanded treatment access, making it easier for addicts to seek help, get off drugs, and avoid overdose. However, considering that most of the deaths in Oklahoma are now from meth addicts who use fentanyl-laced meth without knowing it, much more will need to be done to help these individuals before they make that fatal mistake.
Meth, A Terrible Drug Now Mixed with Lethal Doses of Fentanyl
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive, potent, mind-altering stimulant drug. When ingested or inhaled, meth creates a buildup of dopamine in the brain (dopamine being the “feel-good” chemical the brain produces to create the sensation of pleasure).
“Meth forces the body to release the stored dopamine in the brain all at once, causing people to often feel a euphoric sensation,
energetic, and alert...”
However, methamphetamine acts on the brain in a disturbing way. Quoting a public health notice by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, “Meth forces the body to release the stored dopamine in the brain all at once, causing people to often feel a euphoric sensation, energetic, and alert. At the same time, the body is also signaling to neurotransmitters to block the production of dopamine in the brain. This means once the high is over, there are no more ‘good feelings’ left for the brain to signal.” Experts believe this effect is why methamphetamine is so addictive.
Treatment is a Must for Those Addicted
There is a dire need in Oklahoma to make treatment available for all who are addicted to drugs. The state has made some improvements in this regard, but drug use is now so dangerous in the state and so likely to be fatal that Oklahoma public health officials, policymakers, primary care doctors, and individual families must double down on their efforts to get Oklahoma addicts into rehab and off drugs.
If you know someone in Oklahoma who uses drugs and is addicted, please help them enter treatment today. Their next experience with drugs could be fatal.
- KFOR. “Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics seizes 114 Kilos of meth.” Oklahoma News 4, 2023. kfor.com
- KOCO. “Report shows meth remains most present drug in Oklahoma.” KOCO News 5, 2023. koco.com
- KOSU. “Methamphetamine is killing more Oklahomans than any other drug.” KOSU, 2022. kosu.org
- CDC. “Oklahoma Priority Topic Investments.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022. cdc.gov
- BNDDOK. “Methamphetamine.” Bureau of Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Control Oklahoma, 2020. bnddok.prod.govaccess.org