While Ontario continues to face an opioid crisis, police south of the border are working to get a different drug off the streets.
Meth use has become an increasingly problematic drug in International Falls and Koochiching County.
“For the opiates in Koochiching County, we aren't seeing the numbers the rest of the U.S. and Ontario are seeing," International Falls police officer Paul Kennedy told the "Substance Awareness and Pathways to Healing” conference held over three days last week at the Copper River Inn here.
“In our community it's methamphetamine," he noted. "We are seeing tons and tons of meth.”
Kennedy and Josh Mastin, a narcotics investigator for the International Falls Police Department, gave a presentation at the conference last Monday about meth and opioid use in the area.
Methamphetamine first appeared in the Borderland during the late 1990s to early 2000s. Over the years, police have seized “cola meth," "pink meth," "monster meth,” crank, and crystal meth.
Cola meth got its name from its brown colour caused by the recipe used to cook it. Pink meth is a pink tablet form of methamphetamine while monster meth has a green hue to it from being made with green-coloured gun scrubber.
“Now what we've been seeing in our community is crystal methamphetamine,” Mastin said.
“It's the purest form of methamphetamine and a lot off this is coming right out of Mexico,” he noted.
The ways to cook meth have evolved over the years. Nowadays, people are able to use everyday household items to cook meth almost anywhere.
“I'm willing to bet we probably have everything we need here in this building to make a batch of meth,” said Mastin.
Cooking meth is extremely dangerous. The fumes it releases can be toxic and sometimes houses have to be demolished if they were the site of an active meth lab.
“There is a high probability that if they successfully cook meth in the house, it will get demolished,” Mastin remarked.
“That's how dangerous it is.”
“These aren't your chemists mixing these chemicals together,” echoed Kennedy.
“Most these people haven't gone through school,” he noted.
While meth use was originally most popular among people in their 40s, it now is commonly being used by teens in the community.
“I've arrested people as young as 14 years old with methamphetamine,” said Kennedy.
“Three months ago was my last one, she was only 16.”
But even though meth use is overshadowing opiates, an alarming number of people still are experiencing fatal opioid overdoses.
“The overdose numbers are outrageous,” Kennedy stressed.
Locally, the most common way of using methamphetamine is through a needle injection.
“You do a search on a motor vehicle and there are tons and tons of needles,” noted Mastin.
“We kicked down a door a couple years back and there was about a thousand needles inside the room,” he recalled.
“When the guy hit the floor, there was a needle sticking up right in front of his face.”
Crystal methamphetamine typically is sold as shards or rocks, but sometimes can come as a more granular powder.
“When it's [sold as] the finer stuff, you have to worry about it being cut with something,” Kennedy warned.
“Right now, it is being cut with fentanyl and carfentanil.”
Fentanyl is an opioid used as a pain medication and can be fatal at relatively small doses. It is 50-100 times more potent than morphine, with a three-milligram dose being enough to kill an average-sized adult male.
Carfentanil carries an even greater risk, with it being roughly 100 times more toxic than fentanyl and 10,000 times more toxic than morphine.
Carfentanil is used by veterinarians to treat large animals like elephants and is not intended for human use.
“As far as the opiates go, they are lacing methamphetamine with fentanyl and carfentanil so we don't know what's going into these needles,” Kennedy said.
A few years ago, there was meth going around that was cut with an agent to stretch out the crystals so the producers of it could make more money.
“When this went around town, we probably had half-a-dozen or more people go to the hospital,” Mastin noted.
There also are many crimes associated with drug use, such as theft, domestic violence, child endangerment, neglect, and assault.
Issues of child abuse are common among parents with a methamphetamine addiction.
“It's very common with meth use," Mastin said. ”I would say at least half of the houses we do warrants on end up placing children.
“The one house where we placed three kids, we came in and there was meth paraphernalia right next to a toddler.”
Both Kennedy and Mastin discussed these issues at last week's conference to make people more knowledgeable on this topic and aware that it is happening here.
“We want everyone to be aware, and we need to work together to see what we can do about this problem,” Mastin stressed.