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By Greta Serrin October 10, 2019

Missouri meth use is up, but Hawley is right: lab seizures have dropped dramatically

In a recent Twitter conversation, Sen. Josh Hawley was accused of scapegoating Mexico for Missouri’s meth problem.

"Don’t blame Mexico for what is produced in our own state under your watch," the tweeter, identified as Conrad Hake, wrote. Hake was responding to Hawley’s demand that Democratic presidential hopefuls should declare whether there’s a security threat at the border.

Hawley responded: "Wrong. Meth production in MO has cratered over last decade. MO Hwy Patrol reported 1,326 meth lab seizures in 2006, only 50 in 2018. But meth addiction & overdoses are skyrocketing. DEA’s 2018 Threat Assessment Report says most of meth in U.S. made in Mexico & smuggled over border."

That would be a huge decrease, and the DEA report does say meth in the United States is made in Mexico and transported into the United States, so we decided to do some digging on the numbers of meth production.

Missouri State Highway Patrol’s report holds up

The numbers are correct, according to a Missouri State Highway Patrol report. Incidents in Missouri for methamphetamine chemical/equipment/glassware seizures, laboratories and dumpsites was 1,326 in 2006. The most incidents were in St. Charles, at 125 in the same year.

In 2018, Missouri had 50 methamphetamine incidents, the report said.

"The key factor for the decrease in methamphetamine laboratories is the transportation of crystal methamphetamine into the state," said Sgt. Shawn Griggs, Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman. Missouri production is down, but consumption of meth is still here.

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Methamphetamine is still being used

Hawley cited the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment released by the DEA. It reports that most methamphetamine in the United States is being produced in Mexico.

In 2006, federal and state laws restricted the sale of an over-the-counter cold medicine, pseudoephedrine, that was essential to home-cooked meth. Griggs said 75 communities in the state have created prescription-only ordinances for pseudoephedrine products.

In 2017, Missouri joined an electronic system that tracks and limits the sale of over-the-counter cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine or phenylpropanolamine.

As pseudoephedrine became harder to get in Missouri, production shifted to Mexico, which now manufactures more meth than the United States.

Chris Twitchel, a captain in the Camden County Sheriff’s Department and an adjunct professor of criminology and sociology at Columbia College, said nine years ago a big drug bust would be getting a few ounces. In the middle of September, the drug task force in Camden County got 2 pounds from a guy. "I think it’s less risk to buy it from a source than try to make it on your own," Twitchel said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Missouri’s drug-related deaths increased 18.1% from February 2018 to February 2019. Delaware is the only state with a higher increase at 18.6%. Meanwhile, nationally the amount of drug-related deaths decreased 3.9%.

According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, from 2012 to 2016 people seeking treatment for meth addiction in Missouri increased 52%.

Our ruling

Hawley tweeted, "Meth production in MO has cratered over last decade. MO Hwy Patrol reported 1,326 meth lab seizures in 2006, only 50 in 2018." The numbers are correct for methamphetamine equipment seizures, laboratories and dumpsites, according to state and federal reports. So we rate this claim True.

Our Sources

Email exchange with Chris Twitchel, adjunct professor of criminology and sociology at Columbia College and captain of Camden County Sheriff's Office, Sept. 25, 2019

Email exchange with Mike Berg, communication team for Sen. Josh Hawley, Sept. 27, 2019

Missouri State Highway Patrol meth lab statistics report, accessed Sept. 24, 2019

Josh Hawley’s twitter account

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Meth again a dangerous scourge in Missouri, Feb. 18, 2019.

Camden County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Area Narcotics Enforcement Group drug seizure report, accessed Sept. 24, 2019

Centers for Disease Control, 12 Month-ending Provisional Number of Drug Overdose Deaths, accessed Sept. 25, 2019

2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, accessed Sept. 25, 2019

St. Louis Public Radio, Missouri Drug Deaths Increase As National Numbers Fall For The First Time In Decades, July. 26, 2019

PolitiFact, Oregon district attorney says meth lab seizures and meth-related arrests both down considerably since 2006, April 2, 2011.

CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, accessed Sept. 25, 2019

Missouri Revised Statutes, accessed Oct. 2, 2019.

Missouri meth use is up, but Hawley is right: lab seizures have dropped dramatically

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