When local police seize suspected drugs, more and more of those samples are testing positive for methamphetamine.
The Canton-Stark County Crime Lab in 2018 detected methamphetamine in almost twice as many samples as in the year before, according to the lab’s annual report released Friday.
“I think we expected an increase in meth because of the trend, the trend was changing, and it was going to be a little bigger, but I was still a little surprised it was that big,” said Jay Spencer, a forensic scientist at the lab.
The 1,047 samples positive for methamphetamine were almost 20 times the number of samples in 2012.
The lab found marijuana and its derivatives in 30 percent of the 5,236 samples it tested last year. Twenty percent of samples tested positive for methamphetamine, cocaine or opioids.
Some samples tested positive for more than one substance.
The lab had 1,140 samples test positive for marijuana and its derivatives, a 59 percent increase from 2017.
Spencer said that could be due to an influx of items that are legal in other states, but not in Ohio.
The lab noted a slight increase in samples positive for cocaine or crack and a slight decrease in samples positive for opioids.
The lab’s statistics correlate with trends the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network documented last year.
OSAM interviews treatment professionals, police and individuals in treatment programs, and combines that information with data from state agencies, such as Ohio Department of Public Safety and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, to track drug trends. The latest report available for the Akron-Canton region covers the first half of last year.
The report noted increased availability of methamphetamine in Stark, Tuscarawas, Carroll, Summit and Portage counties.
Some people were using methamphetamine and opioids simultaneously, while others had switched from opioids to meth because they were afraid of overdosing or they were on Vivitrol, a drug that blocks opioids from affecting the brain.
A half-gram of methamphetamine sold in the region for $20 to $30, according to the report.
Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery has been monitoring trends in the use of methamphetamine and cocaine, and the county Opiate Task Force has looked at expanding its focus to include other substances of abuse, said Allison Esber, Stark MHAR systems initiative manager.
The number of individuals seeking treatment at Stark MHAR-funded agencies for amphetamine-use disorder increased from 34 in state fiscal year 2012 to 122 in 2018.
But more individuals sought treatment for cocaine-use disorder (215), alcohol-use disorder (1,348) and opioid-use disorder (1,539) last year.
“We know that there always tends to be a substance of choice throughout history, but the underlying theme is that addiction is addiction, whether it’s with meth, opiates, alcohol or another type of substance,” Esber said.
The medication-assisted treatment used extensively to treat opioid use-disorder doesn’t work for methamphetamine and cocaine, but other strategies are successful, and Stark MHAR is looking to train local treatment providers on a state-promoted model that has good outcomes with meth, Esber said.