Tulsa, Okla. (KJRH) — It’s an epidemic drowning Green Country.
Methamphetamine is being trafficked into our own backyard, which causes widespread crime. Our investigative team dug into the problem and reveals the lasting impact this drug has on all of us.
2 Works for You’s Cori Duke investigated how meth continues to plague the state, and who investigators are blaming for the epidemic.
“The grasp of addiction is so strong that all you can think about is getting the next fix, the next high,” recovering addict Kyle Hunt said.
The horrors of addiction are the scars of Hunt’s past.
“It deteriorates your body, eats you, basically from the inside out,” Hunt said.
Hunt said he is fortunate to have reclaimed his life from the grip of addiction.
Others still fight to be freed, battling the temptation every day.
Tulsa police say the name of the game has changed dramatically in the past decade.
“We were completely inundated with one-pot meth labs,” TPD Special Investigator Cpt. Mark Wollmershauser, Jr. said. “A lot of times what people called shake and bake meth labs, that year I believe we worked 431, the Tulsa Police Department did.”
In the early 2000’s, methamphetamine was a booming business, specifically for users who made it themselves.
“It was multiple meth labs a day,” Wollmershauser said. “It was all throughout the night. It would cause apartment fires, house fires. People would get severe burns.”
Mike Angew, a former addict, said he knew the risks, but the business was good, so he joined the ranks as not only someone who dealt meth, but cooked it.
“In my mind I was like, ‘I want to be the best drug dealer there is,'” Agnew said.
The mindset of most dealers is to sell to whoever, whenever and make sure the money keeps coming.
“Everywhere I went, I could potentially be killed by the person I’m buying from or the person I’m selling,” Agnew said.
The fight to curb the meth lab epidemic began in the early 2000’s when Oklahoma passed laws to limit access to pseudoephedrine.
And Tulsa saw a dramatic drop in the number of meth labs.
“What we really saw in the past five to eight years has been the influx of the Mexican drug cartel,” Wollmershauser said.
The Mexican cartel makes it easier for meth addicts to get their fix. “They have completely taken over the market,” Wollmershauser said. “Why risk burning yourself or definitely going to prison over manufacturing meth when any addict could just go obtain meth for a much cheaper, much easier way? They get it through contact with drug cartels.”
The good news is there are fewer meth labs.
Just one so far in 2018, compared to more than 400 in 2011.
The bad news is that low prices and easier access, mean more meth.
Johanna Hughes, a therapist at St. John, says she sees the impact on real people every day.
“The mental health effects of it are scary,” Hughes said. “It resembles schizophrenia. I’ve had conversations with people who weren’t even there.”
These sights are common in the ER, Hughes said.
“They can become very combative and aggressive because they are so confused and scared,” Hughes said. “All of their senses are so heightened.”
Hughes and her team work to calm the person under the influence and determine whether they need to be admitted to a mental health facility.
Tulsa police are working to reduce the influx of methamphetamine, which directly correlates to crime. They said they’re already making a dent.
“In 2016, we seized a total of about 80 pounds of meth, along with our state and federal partners and had about 1,000 arrests related to methamphetamine,” Wollmershauser said.
In two years time, the department’s seen a 400 percent increase in the seizure of meth and a 40 percent reduction in arrests.
That’s from strictly targeting drug traffickers and Mexican cartel operations.
The meth market is still thriving though.
And while police fight to manage it, addicts fight to control it.
“It was the look on my wife’s face that did it for me,” Agnew said. “I saw pride in her face again, I saw love. I was like, ‘I don’t want to live that life no more.'”
The first step in getting help with addiction is asking for it.
Visit your doctor for a referral to treatment or contact an addiction specialist.
There are several rehab programs in the city waiting to hear from you and get you help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available.