Meth: A Growing Problem in Wisconsin

CENTRAL WISCONSIN (WAOW) — The meth epidemic doesn’t just touch the user. It tears at the very fabric of our communities and will take everyone working together to solve.

It hits close to home for Tammy Renly of Medford. “We will never be the same. We have lost an innocence,” she said.

Renly’s son spent time in prison for using and selling meth and is now in recovery. “It is always in the back of your mind where they are how they are,” Renly said.  She began speaking out about the evils of the drug, and like the state department of justice’s campaign, her goal is to prevent more tragedies.

“Methamphetamine is so corrosive to families and communities,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said. “It can take away the things we love the most..and if we don’t address this that is what we are facing.”

The Republican calls the meth epidemic one of the most challenging problems the state faces. The D.O.J reports meth use has surged, especially in rural areas. “Methamphetamine costs us $424 million dollars a year to deal with the affects this is causing in our communities and that includes law enforcement, treatment and child protective services,” Schimel explained.

Wisconsin crime labs analyzed 300 meth cases in 2010. By 2017 the number jumped close to 1,700– a nearly 500 percent increase.

As we approach the November election, we spoke to Schimel’s Democratic opponent, who calls meth use a significant problem, requiring a three-pronged approach to solve.

“I think we need to be doing more to address the problem,” said Josh Kaul, the Democratic candidate for attorney general. “We should be expanding access to treatment ensuring our enforcement efforts target large scale traffickers and expanding upon our prevention efforts.”

With the increase in the highly addictive drug also known as speed, crank, ice, and crystal, police and sheriff’s departments see an uptick in other crimes too.

“We are hearing tips about meth use and sales almost on a daily basis,” said Sgt. Tony Zblewski of the Stevens Point Police Department. “The number of property crimes have gone through the roof as far as burglaries thefts thefts of cash bike thefts whatever people can get their hands on to pay for their habits.”

Habits driven by highly addictive, potent and cheap meth, which federal drug agents say is produced by Mexican drug cartels.

Enforcement plays a key role, but experts say we will not arrest our way out of this epidemic. “20 years ago we tried and see where we are today,” Portage County Sheriff Mike Lukas said.

A 2005 crackdown in Wisconsin on the sale of cold medicines containing a key ingredient in meth, which is mixed with household chemicals, reduced the number of large-scale meth labs. But police warn of smaller “one pot” or “shake and bake” mobile labs where addicts make thier meth in soda bottles.

Some scoutmasters even advise their troops on nature hikes to avoid picking up trash, for fear it contains meth, and could blow up.

Still, those on the front lines say there is hope.

“Treatment, education, talking about the effects, all those things are helpful in our campaign against the drugs,” Sheriff Lukas said.

“It is okay to say this is what we are dealing with and let the community know that doesn’t have to be a dirty secret and there is power that comes the fact that we band together and talk about it,” Renly said.

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