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April 27, 2014

Cracking down on meth: Drug takes its toll

As statistics in Madison County indicate, the impact of the illicit drug methamphetamine has devastated the community. In 2012, the county was labeled with a dubious distinction: No. 1 in the state for meth labs discovered and No. 2 in the country. Those numbers dropped in 2013, but the county still remained in the top seven in Indiana.

The numbers reflect a meth epidemic, as well as a commitment by prosecutors and law enforcement to battle the drug.

Neighborhoods with rundown or abandoned houses invite transient tenants to run illicit drug rings and produce dangerous substances like meth.

Because of the explosive probabilities that accompany cooking meth, property owners and insurance companies have no choice but to account for the dangers. Housing values fall, while insurance rates rise.

Meanwhile, a segment of the population dealing with addiction and legal issues creates an economic drain on a county already depressed for decades since the exodus of General Motors.

Local police and prosecutors believe they’re making a difference, and meth arrest numbers have dipped in recent months. After leading the state in lab seizures in 2012, Madison County’s number of lab busts dropped 36 percent in 2013.

According to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration statistics, Indiana was No. 3, behind only Missouri and Tennessee in labs seized in 2012. While not every state has released 2013 numbers, Indiana figures to be near the top again, having more than 1,800 dismantled labs. The number has gone up every year since 2006, even as national meth arrest numbers have trended down.

To find meth labs, police officers rely heavily on tips from citizens and businesses. But thanks to legislation passed in the last decade, police have also benefited from a much-needed high-tech assist.

In 2011, then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a bill requiring the state to participate in an e-tracking program for pseudoephedrine, typically used for the common cold. The law limited individual purchases of pseudoephedrine to 3.6 grams a day and 7.2 grams every 30 days.

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