YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The focus has been on heroin and fentanyl, and rightfully so — they’re killing people and ruining lives. But two other drugs we’ve all heard of haven’t gone away in that time.
Over the years that opioids have been talked about, there’s also been an increase in methamphetamine and cocaine use.
“Even throughout this opiate epidemic, we never saw a slowdown and now we’re actually seeing a slight increase,” Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Silverio Balzano said of cocaine use in the Youngstown area.
And it’s getting worse. According to the Mahoning County Drug Task Force, cocaine seizures are up 126 percent since last year.
“We started seeing cocaine removals start to creep up a little bit as well as the amount of cocaine trafficking investigations,” said Jeff Solic, with the task force.
The same is true for methamphetamines. Within a five-hour period on October 12, Youngstown police arrested and charged four people with possession of cocaine or meth.
But why the sudden increase over the last year?
“The prevailing theory amongst law enforcement is that Mexican drug cartels are pushing more meth and cocaine across the border to make up for some profit loss due to the legalization of marijuana across the country,” Solic said.
“Now we’re seeing more of the southwest border crystal meth imported, making its way in,” Balzano said.
Another reason for the increase is an increase in cost, according to Balzano and Solic. A kilogram of cocaine has nearly tripled in price since the ’90s.
While legalization may play a factor, both Solic and Balzano said disrupting the cartels and stopping the sale is critical in getting drugs off the streets.
In about a year, patients will be able to purchase medical marijuana in Ohio. Many in that industry believe access to medical pot could help fix the opiate problem, as fewer people would rely on prescription painkillers that can lead to increased drug use.