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Meth replacing opioids in Dayton area: ‘It’s whack-a-mole’

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Dealers are flooding the local drug market with methamphetamine, and users increasingly are replacing heroin and fentanyl with the highly addictive stimulant, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer told Trump administration officials this week.

Meth’s big return is alarming because users tend to be very aggressive and violent, and increased meth usage will lead to more robberies and violent crimes, Plummer said.

East Dayton has already seen a surge in crime, some community groups say.

By comparison, opioid users often are responsible for crimes like burglaries and thefts to feed their habits, but those are nonviolent offenses, officials say.

Plummer’s comments add to growing concerns about the resurgence of a drug that seemed to fall out of favor in the 2000s. That was following a national crackdown on chemicals used to manufacture the substance.

“It’s whack-a-mole. You fix one problem, something else pops up,” Plummer said.

Earlier this year, this newspaper reported that overdose deaths in Montgomery County in which meth appeared as a factor in the cause of death statements more than tripled in 2017.

More workers are testing positive for meth in some Midwestern states. In Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, positives for meth in work-related drug tests increased 167 percent between 2013 and 2017, according to data from Quest Diagnostics, a national leader in drug testing for employers.

Meth’s rise comes at a time when there has been progress to combat fatal drug overdose deaths related to opioids.

Montgomery County has had 65 percent fewer unintentional drug overdose deaths through July of this year, compared to the same period in 2017, according to public health officials.

Jan Lepore-Jentleson, executive director of East End Community Services, said it’s important to understand that there is a drug addiction crisis — not just an opioid crisis — because the problems are not going away even if opioid deaths decline.  “We know lots and lots of addicts who have switched to meth while they are on Suboxone,” she said, referring to a medication used to treat opioid dependence.

“Meth has returned with a fury,” and it’s scary because the drug causes people to act erratically, like they are in a psychotic state, she said. In late June, Dayton police responded to a call in southeast Dayton related to a welfare. The 911 caller said there was a man with no shirt who tried to enter a home on Patterson Road and was on the porch talking to himself, according to a police report.

A friend told police the 26-year-old suspect was clearly intoxicated, and, after leaving his apartment, he tried to open the front doors of homes as walked down the street, the report said.

Police said they spoke with the suspect, but he refused to provide ID and made aggressive statements. The suspect tried to flee and then resisted arrest, police said.

Police said they tased the suspect and had to use a hobble restraint device because he kept trying to kick the officers. In a statement to police, his friend said the suspect came to his house but was delirious and did not know where he was, the report says. At the hospital, police said they recovered a small plastic bag containing a white crystal-like substance. They say it was meth.

In another incident, Dayton police were called to northwest Dayton on a suspicious person complaint in May. Police encountered and searched a man who they say had a screwdriver and a bag of meth in his pocket, according to a police report. Police spoke with the woman who called 911. She said she did not know the man, but he had banged on her front and rear doors and used a screwdriver on the door. The man told police he was in the area trying to pick up a friend. A few days later, police responded to a residence in east Dayton on a complaint about an intoxicated person. Officers found a woman who seemed confused and was on a porch of a home that belonged to no one she knew, according to a police report. Police said they searched her and found crystal meth in a contact lens case.

In June, Dayton police said they found meth in the possession of a driver who was passed out at the wheel of his parked car. Police said he had fled two attempted traffic stops earlier in the day.

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