BATAVIA, Ohio — Meth is in, heroin is out.
The drug epidemic has changed face in Clermont County, officials say.
The sheriff’s office and hospitals are seeing an explosion of meth while heroin and opioid overdoses have dropped significantly as former users make the switch.
"We would see one a day, multiple a day," Dr. Janice Jones of Mercy Hospital said of opioid ODs. "Now we’re seeing single digits for the month."
At the same time, once-common meth labs have all but disappeared from the county, according to Lt. Nick DeRose of the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office. Meth production used to be big business in Clermont County, but it even surprises DeRose that that there are no longer any meth labs to be found there, he said.
“We were getting 50, 60, 70, close to 100 meth labs a year. We were always in the top five of meth labs," DeRose said.
"We had zero meth labs in 2019, which is unheard of,” DeRose said. “It’s the first time that I can remember that we’ve never had a meth lab.”
So where is the “new meth” coming from?
Through the mail from Mexico, according to DeRose.
“They call it ‘Ice,’ which is the shards instead of the junkish looking white powder,” he said.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve had well into the thousands of grams - 4 or 5 pounds - of methamphetamine, but we’re going to beat our numbers probably this month from last year.”
The new meth supply has created a new overdose problem as well as a danger for hospital staff.
Meth overdoses are “very difficult to manage from an emergency department standpoint,” said Jones. "Patients have a lot of psychomotor agitation ... very paranoid at times ... having dillusions.
“We’ve unfortunately had some incidents where we’ve had staff members being harmed by patients presenting under the influence of methamphetamine,” Jones said.
DeRose and Jones are also seeing an uptick in meth laced with fentanyl. A meth-fentanyl-cocaine mixture is out there, too, DeRose said.
“Sometimes we’ll test our folks and they’ll say, ‘I’ve never used fentanyl in my life. What do you mean I’m positive for fentanyl?’” DeRose said.
“A lot of times they don’t know what’s in their meth.”
Cocaine and hashish are on the rise as well, DeRose said.
Tracie Sellars of the Clermont Municipal Court Probation Department has seen these trends, too.
“Between 2017 to 2018 our fentanyl numbers went up 150%, and we currently have a 56% increase with our methamphetamine use,” Sellars said. “Our just-opiate use is down by 80%, so we’re seeing very little true heroin, opiate use by itself.”
Whatever the drug being used, drug use is driving “90% of the crime in this country,” DeRose said.
“People are stealing because they need drugs. People are stealing from their families. They’re getting hooked.
“Whether it’s meth or fentanyl, they’re very addictive drugs,” DeRose said.