The DEA has ruled methamphetamines as the No. 1 drug threat in Arkansas.
Tactical Diversion Squad Supervisor Tom Fischer spoke to Conway Kiwanis Club members Wednesday afternoon regarding the drug crisis in Arkansas.
“Our No. 1 threat in the state of Arkansas is methamphetamine,” Fisher, who has worked for the DEA for 22 years, said Wednesday. “The volume of methamphetamine that enters the state of Arkansas is tremendous. It’s not uncommon for me or our agents to find upward of 80 to 100 pounds on a weekly basis.”
These hauls are making their way into Little Rock and other small communities across the state, including those in northern Faulkner County.
Kiwanian Dustin Chapman, who is also the Greenbrier city attorney, said methamphetamine affects social classes of all types. The drug has no boundaries.
“We definitely have a major problem in this area with both meth and opiates,” he said. “They go hand in hand. It affects families … it affects everybody. When we talk about the drug crisis being a public health issue, it’s not just scary-looking junkies under bridges anymore – it’s moms; it’s dads; it’s people of all professions and all ages and races.”
The DEA has 10,000 agents across the globe. Of those, about 5,000 directly fight against “the Drug War.” However, there’s more to solving drug cases than the narcotics involved, Fisher said.
“With drug crime comes associated crime – that’s violent crime,” he said. “My very first case was a double murder, but it evolved out of a narcotics trafficking organization.”
The second largest threat in Arkansas pertaining to narcotics distribution is the diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances.
“We’re talking about doctors and pharmacists and organizations who have counterfeiting methods for [prescriptions],” Fisher said.
Getting addicted to prescription pills happens in a variety of ways, Chapman said.
“It could be just as simple as someone having a small surgery or a dental procedure and the doctor gives them some pain pills they’re not ready to handle yet,” he said. “[It becomes] a life-changing event and it just gets worse from there.”
Regarding corrupt pharmacies and other organizations that help to illegally distribute these drugs, Fisher said he sometimes finds the “massive” quantities they distribute “intriguing.” Some organizations illegally divert 400,000 to 500,000 pills within their communities, he said.
Along with investigating pharmaceutical companies, the DEA also looks at those who buy other’s prescriptions on the street.
Aside these two issues, drug trafficking organizations pose a large threat in Arkansas as well.
These groups bring with them a rise in violent crime, Fisher said.
Those transporting illegal narcotics have often done so using Interstate 40, which runs through the middle of the state.
“At any given time, it’s amazing to think about the amount of drugs being traveled from east to west across that corridor,” Fisher said.
Despite the dangerous narcotics that groups have transported along I-40, the Arkansas State Police have made a dent in the number of individuals trafficking drugs along the highly-traveled interstate.
“They are well known across the United States for their ability to commit interdiction,” Fisher said, adding that three particular troopers are responsible for much of the interceptions.
In the 1970s, cocaine was the main craze. Fisher said that trend shifted to crack in the ’80s and then domestic methamphetamine in the 1990s. Arkansas, Missouri and California were the Top 3 states in the ’90s where domestic meth could be found. This could be attributed to the agricultural and rural areas that covered most of these three states.
“A lot of the ingredients and fertilizers the farmers used to farm and function were also used in methamphetamine production,” Fisher said, adding that these ingredients often were stolen from the farmers.
Once pseudoephedrine laws were set in place, the trend shifted to meth that was imported internationally. The meth coming from China and other countries was purer than what was made in America.
Now, prescription drug abuse has led to the pharmaceutical craze, Fisher said.
“Unwillingly and unknowingly, you very well could be a supplier to somebody else by allowing access to opioids and other types of controlled substances,” Fisher said, adding that 40% of the 4 billion prescriptions written annually go unused.
Seventy percent of children interviewed by authorities said they first used a controlled substance they found in a medicine cabinet in their own home or at a family member’s residence, Fisher said.
The epidemic will take more work than law enforcement officers working to pick up those selling and distributing controlled substances.
“Law enforcement can’t arrest their way through this,” Fisher said. “This is never going to happen through law enforcement's efforts and actions alone.”