Methamphetamine is on the upswing in Missouri, including rural communities that the drug has already ravaged over decades, according to state officials and individuals recovering from addiction.
Sgt. Mark McClendon, of the Missouri Highway Patrol, told KCUR-TV meth is reaching places and people in the state that it never has before.
"The meth problem has basically exploded across every race and social economic class that you can imagine," McClendon said.
Meth use is increasing due to its price, availability and shortage of treatment options.
The drug is now stronger and cheaper than it used to be, said Erik Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Kansas City office. Methamphetamine is being trafficked by Mexican drug cartels that are mass producing high-quality quantities and pushing it into markets where it was previously unknown.
"I started using methamphetamine when I was 18, 19 years old," Qulin resident Dustin Siebert said. "And, months later, some four or five months, I was helping other people manufacture it. Took over my life, like it did just about everybody else in this area."
Siebert hasn't used meth for four years. He started a support group called Matthew 25 Project, for those recovering from meth addiction.
Siebert said many people in Qulin, a small town of 450, haven't been able to recover from their addictions.
He said meth use declined early this decade when lawmakers cut access to key ingredients, such as pseudoephedrine cold pills. It's around that same time that southeast Missouri began having a problem with opioids, he said.
"Now that they're hammering down on the opiates, guess what's happening? Now the meth is coming back in," Siebert said.
Intensive treatment for uninsured meth users is difficult to find and clinicians don't have medications to help wean residents off the drug.
Siebert said the only response seems to be new faith-based meth support groups.