Although the heroin epidemic in the region has been grabbing a lot of headlines lately, methamphetamine is still a drug very much on the radar of area law enforcement.
If you want to back up that claim with numbers and observations from the front line, just ask the Lake County Narcotics Agency.

On July 18, the Lake County Narcotics Agency arrested two Wickliffe residents accused of manufacturing methamphetamine. Megin Miether and Matthew Agostine were living together at 838 Bryn Mawr Ave. when the agency and the Wickliffe Police Department executed a search warrant.

Those arrests came less than a month after another meth-related probe, which led the LCNA to arrest Glenn Bryant and Lisa Quirk with the help of Madison Township Police.

Agostine, Bryant, Miether and Quirk were all charged with third-degree felonies related to assembling or possessing one or more chemicals to manufacture or intend to manufacture methamphetamine, according to Painesville Municipal Court records. All but Quirk were also charged with second-degree felony manufacturing because of the meth labs found.

These arrests are just a handful of between 20 and 50 arrests projected in the next month related to manufacturing meth, LCNA Sgt. Brad Kemp said. Meth began appearing in Lake County about 14 years ago, Kemp said. Its enduring popularity stems in part from how easy it is to make. “Manufacturing meth is not hard and it’s gotten even easier,” he said of a change about seven or eight years ago. “The new method is easy and can be done in smaller batches.”

He said the process used to require a rare farming fertilizer, but now uses only household items and takes only an hour. The shopping list for “cooking” meth includes items like salt, instant cold packs, fuel, batteries, and, most importantly, pseudoephedrine tablets.

Extracted from those household items are the chemicals needed to make the drug: lithium, ammonium nitrate, pseudoephedrine, solvents (like lantern fuel) lye and water.

Meth manufacturing also offers a lucrative profit margin for makers and sellers.

Kemp said about $20 in up-front cost yields about 2 grams — two sugar packets worth — that sell for about $200. With a potential to make big money and sell to a target market teeming with addicts, it’s no surprise that a large number of people have been arrested over the years for manufacturing meth or contributing to its making.

As the LCNA plots its future strategy to put Lake County’s meth providers out of business, Kemp said he wants to work from the top manufacturers down to the worker bees who gather the ingredients, especially cold medicines containing the coveted pseudoephedrine. The latter group will make up the majority of the projected arrests in the county over the next month, he added.

The use of meth in Lake County, much like heroin, has spread like wildfire, Kemp said.

“Meth” is a drug most people aren’t able to get off. Only seven percent of people are able to get off of it. We’re fighting two of the hardest addictions out there.”

A fight is a good way to describe it. Meth, along with heroin, is like a one-two punch that the Lake County Narcotics Agency and all other law enforcement agencies are trying to find a way to knock out.

We commend them for fighting the good fight.