A new Purdue Extension publication gives community leaders insight into the methamphetamine scourge so they can work to solve the problems it causes in Indiana, which leads the nation in meth lab raids.
The authors of Methamphetamine Use in Rural Indiana explain the effects of meth use, describe trends in the illegal drug's use in rural areas and suggest possible ways local leaders can combat the problem.
"While nationwide methamphetamine use has followed a decreasing trend in recent years, meth use in Indiana has shown an increasing pattern," write authors Janet Ayres, a Purdue University agricultural economist whose work focuses on leadership and economic development in rural Indiana, and graduate research assistant Danielle Carriere.
There were 1,797 meth lab seizures in Indiana in 2013, the highest number of any state in the nation, according to the researchers.
"The implications behind this number are twofold - both positive and negative," the researchers write." On one hand, it suggests that law enforcement officials are successfully finding and shutting down meth labs. On the other, it represents an increasing number of labs in the state."
The number of meth lab seizures in Indiana began to rise starting in 2007 after a couple of years of decline and since has surpassed its peak in 2004.
The publication is the latest in a series, begun in 2013, to help state and local leaders better tackle the many quality-of-life issues facing people in the most rural counties in Indiana, such as those involving business development, unemployment, education, availability of health care and healthy food, and access to broadband Internet services.
The authors say the meth lab problem in Indiana presents unique challenges.
Besides the drug being extremely addictive, they note, users can easily make it themselves. That is especially the case in rural Indiana where a key ingredient, anhydrous ammonia, is readily available because it is used in fertilizer.
The authors say the effects of meth use and production go beyond the obvious health problems, which include an increase in admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities for meth addictions from 2003 to 2013. Buildings such as houses where meth is produced must be decontaminated before they are considered safe to occupy, and the cost is so high that it is sometimes cheaper to demolish a building than clean it.
"Among those affected in rural communities, children often suffer most, due to exposure to chemicals used to make meth, or a parent or guardian's inability to provide care while on meth," the authors write.
The publication includes a table ranking each rural county's total meth lab seizures from 2011 to 2013 and its average seizure rate per 10,000 people. The authors favor the seizure rates for comparisons among counties because of the wide disparities in populations.
Starke County had the highest seizure rate (10.30) followed closely by Jennings County (10.28). Ohio County had the lowest rate (0.55). Harrison County had the most seizures (92) but was fifth in seizure rate (8.55).
The authors say people in rural communities should become more aware of the seriousness of the meth problem and get involved to help to solve it. They say leaders might want to request a program on topics covered by the state police's Methamphetamine Suppression Section and implement programs such as The Meth Project, which has been credited with Montana's drop from fifth to 39th in the nation for meth abuse.
Each publication in the rural Indiana series is available free for download at Purdue Extension's The Education store at www.edustore.purdue.edu. The publications can be found by entering "rural Indiana" in the search box.