Meth problem resurgent in northwestern Wis.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) — After the meth problem in northwest Wisconsin all but disappeared from 2007 to 2010, local authorities say the highly addictive drug is making a comeback.

The number of suspected meth samples submitted to the state crime lab for analysis rose 86 percent last year to 440. For the first half of 2013 that figure was on a similar pace, and drug officials said they were pouring significant resources into stemming the trend, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported (http://bit.ly/16Gov8o ).

“It’s definitely what we’re busy with right now,” said Eau Claire police Sgt. Andy Falk, who runs the West Central Drug Task Force. He said there was a big push to tackle the meth resurgence because users commit burglary and other collateral crimes to fund their habit.

Methamphetamine usage is especially high in Barron County, which had 41 of the 440 cases last year. There were also 25 cases in Dunn County and 24 in St. Croix counties.

Most of the meth in west-central Wisconsin comes via the Twin Cities, said Special Agent Jeff Kostner, a meth expert with the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation. He speculated that the shrinking number of high-profile meth lab busts may have fueled the premature perception that the meth problem was going away.

Meth can be swallowed, snorted, smoked or injected. Children who live with meth users also face health risks because they’re exposed to toxic chemicals and dangerous secondhand smoke, Falk said.

It’s not clear why meth seems to be making a comeback, although Falk theorized that several factors are in play: less police and media focus on the dangerous consequences of meth use, the end of long prison terms for key suppliers, and the normal ebb and flow in the popularity of various street drugs.

“For a while there, our message got out and meth became very unfashionable. People didn’t want it,” Falk said. “But now, unfortunately, it’s back in fashion.”

The warnings evoke painful memories for Sue Cherrier, a Chippewa Falls resident whose 20-year-old son committed suicide in 2002 as a result of the paranoia that stemmed from his meth addiction. Justin Cherrier began using meth as a teenager, and his personality began to change. He would lash out at relatives and teachers, and he sold belongings to get money for meth.

“I was scared to be alone with him, to tell you the truth. He just wasn’t the little boy I raised anymore,” Cherrier said. “It’s something you think about every day. It’s a pain that never goes away.”

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Information from: Leader-Telegram, http://www.leadertelegram.com/

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