How bad is Madison County's methamphetamine problem?
Really, really bad.
The Herald Bulletin's special report in February detailed how the cheap, easy-to-make, volatile and highly addictive drug had decimated some local neighborhoods, ruined lives and demanded huge amounts of law enforcement resources.
And it doesn't appear to be getting much better.
A recent federal report shows that Indiana in 2013 supplanted Missouri and Tennessee for the most meth busts in the country. Indiana law enforcement reported 1,800 meth lab incidents during the year, 300 more than the second-place Volunteer State.
Madison County, which had the most meth lab incidents in the state and second most in the country in 2012, "fell" in the rankings in 2013 but still is among the 10 worst meth counties in the state. Neighboring Delaware County was No. 2 in the state in 2013, according to the federal report.
Now, some might note that "lab incidents" reflect law enforcement priorities, not trends in meth manufacturing and use.
That's a good point. However, it also makes sense that law enforcement would focus on addressing communities' most pervasive problems.
To a greater extent than many other illicit drugs, meth jeopardizes the health of non-users. The fumes given off by chemicals used in the making of meth can cause brain damage and respiratory problems.
And meth can have particularly catastrophic effects on children, whose developing organs are especially susceptible to chemical damage. Kids in meth homes also face higher probabilities of sexual, physical and mental abuse.
Meth making can also lead to explosions and fires that affect entire neighborhoods. And the presence of a meth home, or former meth home, can drive down the value of nearby properties, causing blight.
Aside from meth, Madison County has lots of other substance abuse problems to conquer. Prescription drugs. Crack cocaine. Alcohol.
But perhaps none are as damaging and require the attention and focus of police officers that meth demands.
Report meth use To report suspected meth manufacturing or use: -- Indiana State Police, Pendleton post: 800-527-4752 -- Indiana State Police drug tip line: 800-453-4756 -- Madison County Drug Task Force: 648-6796. Tips can be made anonymously. More information can be found at www.meth.in.gov. The drug task force also offers group classes for drug education.