LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky has the highest percentage of fentanyl-positive drug tests in the country and lands in the top 10 for meth, cocaine, and heroin. That is according to a new report from Millenium Health which looked at drug test results across the country.
While drug test results only provide a small picture of the problem, drug enforcement trends in the Commonwealth also point to this being a widespread problem in the state. We talked to Kevin McWilliams, a spokesman for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration Louisville Division. That division covers all of Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Since the Louisville Division was formed in 2018, agents have seized 340 kilos of meth, over 100 kilos of fentanyl, and about 230 kilos of cocaine.
"Opioids are still very much a problem, fentanyl especially, but meth is as big as it's ever been," McWilliams said.
While the meth that used to be popular was mostly home-cooked, there is a new wave that some are calling meth 2.0.
"The meth today is coming from super labs down in Mexico making huge quantities quickly and cheaply," McWilliams said.
Since the purity level is so high, it is easier for people to get addicted. Priscilla McIntosh, the CEO of the Morton Center in Louisville, said people are coming in daily to get help fighting meth addiction.
"As soon as you for the very first time try, you can become immediately addicted to meth," McIntosh said.
McWilliams said fentanyl is also extremely addictive and dangerous. It is frequently laced into other drugs, so people are getting addicted without even knowing it.
"A little bit can kill you. We are seizing counterfeit pills that have fentanyl in them that people don't even know they are buying counterfeit pills in a lot of cases. Anybody is at risk if you are buying anything because you don't know what is in it," McWilliams said.
According to the DEA, most of these drugs are coming up from the southern border. Since small amounts do so much, McWilliams said that has posed a challenge for enforcement because it is much easier to smuggle into the mail. Last fall, Spectrum News 1 got an inside look at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol checkpoint at an undisclosed location in Kentucky. Agents at that checkpoint find illegal and deadly items in the mail daily. In fact, during that interview, agents located and prevented nearly 60 lbs of fentanyl precursor from reaching its intended destination.
"Compared to a marijuana trafficker who has to have huge quantities, with fentanyl, you don't need that. You could hide it in almost anything. The amount you need is very small," McWilliams said.
Despite those added enforcement challenges, the DEA works to get these drugs off Kentucky streets. McWilliams said, since drugs today are more dangerous than ever, it should come as a warning to people to steer clear.
The DEA recently released the 2019 National Drug Threat Assessment report. In it, people can find more information on how each drug is impacting the nation and the Commonwealth.