Survey: Meth Cited as Top Drug

Is there a new king of the underworld?

Meth Abuse Cited as Top Drug Problem for Law Enforcement Agencies (AP)

The crippling reach of methamphetamine abuse has become the nation’s leading drug problem affecting local law enforcement agencies, according to a survey of 500 sheriff’s departments in 45 states.

More than half of the sheriffs interviewed for a National Association of Counties survey released Tuesday said they considered meth the most serious problem facing their departments.

“We’re finding out that this is a bigger problem than we thought,” said Larry Naake, executive director of the association. “Folks at the state and federal level need to know about this.”

About 90 percent of those interviewed reported increases in meth-related arrests in their counties over the past three years, packing jails in the Midwest and elsewhere.

The arrests also have swamped other county-level agencies that assist with caring for children whose parents have become addicted and with cleaning up toxic chemicals left behind by meth cookers.

The report comes soon after the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy restated its stance that marijuana remains the nation’s most substantial drug problem. Federal estimates show there are 15 million marijuana users compared with the 1 million that may use meth.

Dave Murray, a policy analyst for the White House, said he understands that the meth problem moving through the nation is serious and substantial. But he disagrees that it has become an epidemic.

It is, of course, entirely possible to find different results when one compares a poll that aggregates the opinion of local agencies, as NACO has done, against a study that examines the illicit drug usage of individuals over age twelve, as NDCP has done. Among other things, NACO disregards wide variances in county populations. It theoretically treats Los Angeles and Juab as equals, even though drug problems in the larger jurisdiction are more magnified.

Unfortunately, NACO doesn’t break down its data by county (indeed, it doesn’t even name the counties that took its survey; it merely tallies the number of county respondents per state). But I wouldn’t be surprised if the populous urban counties report that meth, on the whole, is still a relatively small problem despite growing abuse.

Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. M. Murcek says:

    It seems that meth leads its users into depths of physical and psychological degredation that heroin and crack just can’t match. Is it any wonder it’s the addicts’ top choice?

  2. bryan says:

    Meth labs require a remote location to run, because of the horrible smell. It’s long been a problem in rural Texas, and there was recently a spate of meth lab busts in upstate S.C. – one right across the street from an elementary school!

    Marijuana may be a serious problem, but the depths of depravity to which meth users will go dwarfs the crime problems associated with marijuana.