TRI-STATE (WFIE) - Meth used to be the main drug of choice in the Tri-State.
When the federal government cracked down on limiting over-the-counter purchases in the mid-2000's, use of the drug saw a national decline.
Recently, local law enforcement agencies say they've seen a rise in crystal methanphetamine, now in the shadow of the opioid epidemic and with a potentially deadly twist.
We sat down with an undercover officer with the Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force. Detective Bill Mills explained what his team and other agencies are dealing with on the streets over the last few months.
It is not pretty.
Detective Mills tells us crystal meth is coming back with a vengeance into our community.
"It's definitely running up and down 41, the Pennyrile, and 24," Mills listed the local highways he and other narcotic officers have seen the drug pass through recently. "We've got multiple interstates around here and it is definitely moving up and down the highway."
Over the last two months, narcotics officers in western Kentucky say they've seized over a $1 million worth in methamphetamine.
In a big bust in Graham, Kentucky, Mills said he and other officers found a man working for a bigger operation in Clarksville, Tennessee.
"We see more meth than we do anything. Meth and marijuana. But, the meth, I mean--is everywhere," Mills said.
Detective Mills revealed that meth is used in every community, not just in crime-ridden neighborhoods. The drug buys are happening quickly, and at places you wouldn't expect. He tells over the last two weeks, his team has made two drug dealing busts at popular gas stations and grocery store locations off Green Street in Henderson.
Narcotics officers say the one reason for the current rise of crystal meth is the price.
"We're seeing a drop in price where we was paying like $1200 for an ounce meth, but we've been able to buy it for $600 to $800," Detective Mills said. "Which is indication to us that the market has been flooded. A lot of meth has been brought into the area. Meth is quite a bit cheaper than what heroin is."
Another reason for the rise is the mass production happening south of the United States' border. Meth production in Mexico is making it easier for drug cartels to expand their markets, allowing for deeper penetration into nearby cities like Louisville and Nashville.
But the increase in potency is what's scares narcotic officers like Detective Mills the most.
"I've been doing this for about 20 years. It's the worst I've seen," Mills said. "It started with the meth labs, and the marijuana, and we thought that was bad. As the stuff progresses, what we are seeing with crystal meth..." he paused. "Crystal is a whole lot harder than regular meth...it is a lot more powerful. People are using more pills because they're coming off this Crystal, it's so hot, they get sick, and it hurts," he explained. "They take these pills to try and cut that pain down."
Detective Mills says in two separate cases in just the last few weeks, meth he's sent to the state crime lab has tested positive not only for high quality meth, but also for fentanyl.
You may have heard about the dangers of fentanyl already. Dealers and users mix it with other opioids, and it often causes overdoses for heroin-users.
Now agencies are seeing it mixed with meth.
"They are mixing it in," Mills sighed. "It's really insane, and it's scary. We recently had a case test positive for meth, fentanyl, and heroin," Mills told us. "That stuff is out here. People who are street users, they go up and they buy something they think is one thing and it could be something else. I'd say for most of these guys, it's a 50-50 shot whether they're going to die or get high," Mills said.
Evansville and southwest Indiana law enforcement agencies tell us they haven't seen fentanyl mixed with meth in their labs yet.
But it's on their radar.
Evansville's DEA office confirms they have seen a spike in meth in the Tri-State, too.