A drug sweep in the tri-county area last month lead to more than 30 arrests for distribution of drugs, specifically methamphetamine.
The demand for meth is high in the Permian Basin, but before the drug reaches the oil patch, it takes root in small towns. That’s according to Jane Maxwell, a professor of social work at UT Austin.
“Anytime meth passes through, you’re going to get local people using it,” says Maxwell, comparing it to spilling sugar or salt.
There’s been a resurgence of meth following a 2006 crackdown on medications used to make the drug, like ephedrine. Now, the drug is back, and the new precursor, an illegal substance called phenyl-2-proponone, comes from urban centers in Mexico. It’s usually transported across the border in liquid form, before being converted to crystal form on the other side.
“It’s not easy to make like the old ephedrine shake and bake,” explains Maxwell. “This takes a really good chemist.”
Not only is the new meth more potent than before, Maxwell says the problem’s being overlooked.
“There’s no question in my mind that methamphetamine is the number one problem, but we’ve gotten totally focused on heroin and fentanyl, which are not that big a problem in Texas right now,” says Maxwell.
Seizures of meth at the Texas–Mexico border have increased by 103% since 2014, and the drug caused more deaths than heroin in 2016. The worst part: it’s cheaper than ever.