Morgantown Police Chief has serious concerns about rising use of much more powerful meth

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The seizure of nearly 1,000 grams of illegal drugs, primarily methamphetamine, is part of a trend that Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston is now noticing.

“Meth is becoming more and more available as a result of international drug trafficking organizations, particularly out of Mexico,” he said Monday on WAJR’s Morgantown AM. “And they’re making meth more available and larger quantities and cheaper than it would be for people to manufacture it.”

The seizure resulted in the arrests of two men, both from Philadelphia.

“They were selling a lot of drugs, and unfortunately meth has become more popular,” Preston said. “And it’s becoming more popular across the entire state and the U.S. for that matter.”

26-year-old Anthony Lockhart III and 25-year-old Tauheed Holt are both facing charges following the seizure at a Star City home by the Mon Metro Drug Task Force last week.

“It would be really hard for those two individuals to move it themselves without having runners to make the distributions,” Preston said.

Part of this, Preston said, is about supply and demand.

“Crackdowns on the opiates and crackdowns on the heroin have come about,” he said. “Crackdowns on the ephedrine in the purchases out of the stores, it got real hard to make the product here locally and regionally. So, importation of it becomes a more profitable game.”

Police seized 206 grams of heroin and 790 grams of crystal meth, valued at approximately $120,000.

“Methamphetamine and cocaine that also are cut or fused with fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives or heroin,” Preston said. “So we’re seeing those two mixed together.”

The meth has Preston particularly concerned for a number of reasons, including its potency.

“John Belushi overdosed on a speedball, which was cocaine and heroin mix cocktail,” he said. “We’re seeing similar types of things happening now. It’s not just pure meth. It’s not just pure cocaine. It’s not just pure heroin. It’s a combination of those mixed together.”

Preston noted the overdose rate is up about 400 percent in West Virginia.

“This stuff is made in much larger quantities with much more stringent chemicals. A lot of times it’s referred to as ice. And it’s because of the physical appearance — it looks like shaved ice. There are little glass shards that are in it, as opposed to some of the multi-coloration or multi-powder appearances from the homemade meth.”

This also presents a new problem for first responders: life-saving overdose reversal drugs like narcan have no impact on methamphetamine.

“If someone overdosed with meth, it would have no effect at all,” Preston said. “If they overdose with meth and fentanyl, it would work on the fentanyl, but not the meth part of the overdose.”

One silver lining he did note — at least an anecdotal one — is that his officers have been responding to fewer overdoses than in years past.

“We’re not down to daily basis now,” he said. “We’re dealing with several a week now. Things have tapered off compared to what they were six or eight months ago.”

That’s a pretty mild silver lining though, Preston said, because meth has a tendency to be associated with a very alarming type of crime.

“The meth and cocaine are stimulants of the central nervous system,” he said. “Folks tend to be ‘up’ a lot more. Crimes of violence tend to be more attributed with it because of paranoia, willingness to fight.

Typically, crimes related to opioid use trend more towards petty theft.

“There’s different types of associated crimes based upon what the drugs do to the central nervous system itself,” Preston said.

Lockhart III and Holt are both facing possession with intent to deliver charges for both meth and heroin and charges of conspiracy.

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