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Methamphetamine making its way into the Triad

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Methamphetamine is making its way into the Triad. If the current trend continues, experts believe the drug could overtake heroin as the area’s “drug of choice.”

Meth has been present in the North Carolina mountains for decades. However, the drug never took hold in the Triad.

“We’ve seen an increase in the amount of methamphetamine that’s been seized,” said Capt. Doug Nance, of the Winston-Salem Police Department.

In 2015, there were 29 methamphetamine seizures in the city, according to officers. In 2016, that number rose to 51, and the number of seizures continued to climb to 78 in 2017 and 137 in 2018.

“The supply line, as with most of our narcotics, is coming directly from Mexico,” Nance said.

In January 2019, there were 13 methamphetamine seizures and in February there were 23. The 23 seizures last month were the most meth seizures in Winston-Salem in any month since 2014.

“It’s cheaper,” Nance said, comparing meth to other drugs. “It’s available.”

The 36 seizures in January and February totaled more than 338 grams of meth.

“Once it gets into the city, for instance Winston-Salem, it’s then going to be broken down for personal consumption,” Nance said.

In the meantime, heroin overdoses are down. Naloxone was used to revive users 36 times in the city in 2015. In 2016, the number of uses jumped to 201, climbed to 278 in 2017 and peaked at 466 uses in 2018.

However, in January and February 2019, that rate reduced, when Naloxone was used 39 times.

“I don’t know if it would be because it’s cheaper, if it’s because our heroin users have recognized the hazards of heroin and specifically fentanyl and they understand the risk for death,” Nance said, as to why users may be making the switch.

Nance says you can still overdose on meth. Unlike heroin, methamphetamine-related deaths tend to be more drawn out as a user’s body deteriorates.

“From the day they begin to use until their body basically gives out,” Nance said. “It’s what I would call a more cruel death.”

Like other drugs, users range in ages and demographics.

“Meth appeals to the younger, but there’s a white-collar aspect to meth use,” Nance said. “A lot of businessmen, or women, they need to stay alert, stay up, and meth is a stimulant.”

The signs of meth use can be noticeable both early on and deep into an addiction.

“It’s going to keep the user awake for long periods of time,” Nance said. “Appetite suppression. For long-term use, there are issues with acne, they have skin issues and problems.”

Nance added that most of the meth they are currently seeing has been in the supply line, where they are beginning to see larger quantities. As that meth makes it’s way to more users, Nance says it “very well could be the drug of choice here in the near future.”

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