Scott County Sheriff Chris Holder says meth has replaced opioids as the area’s most pressing drug problem.
“It was over a pound. It was the most meth I’ve ever seen at one time in my career,” said Holder.
Drug Agent Clint Johnson said, in April 2019, 114 of 116 drug charges they dealt out were meth-related.
“We still have opioids but we don’t have a massive problem with opioids like we once had. It’s all meth now,” said Holder.
He said the switch came about two years ago when they started seeing cheaper and more potent meth from Mexico.
“It went way down–the prices–because there is so much of it. It’s flooded. It’s too easy to get to,” said Holder.
Holder said two years ago, a gram of meth would’ve cost about $100. Today, he said people are getting the same amount for as low as $35 dollars.
He said the increase in availability has strained law enforcement resources. The department has just one drug agent to serve a population of more than 20 thousand.
Holder said he’s been trying to find ways to increase manpower but the cost is a barrier.
The same is true for mental health services in the region, according to Michael Lilly, Frontier Health’s behavioral health outpatient coordinator for Scott and Lee County
“I would say there is a need for more resources,” said Lilly, “I think that’s always going to be an issue is trying to figure out what options for treatment are going to be the best for the individuals that we serve.”
He said growing restrictions on opioid distribution are causing many users to turn to meth but the treatment landscape has not caught up to the shift in substance abuse. “In this area, there are more services for opioid addiction than there is methamphetamine,” said Lilly.
Lilly said that’s because some facilities specialize in medication-assisted treatment for opioids.
He said this is not part of the treatment regimen for someone addicted to meth.
“So with methamphetamine, other than just treating the symptoms, you would actually be providing more individual therapy services,” said Lilly.
Lilly said Frontier Health has reduced wait times as a result of a recent “same day treatment” program launched last year.
He said Southwest Virginia is still in need of more clinicians capable of providing intensive outpatient treatment.