POSTED ON OCTOBER 19, 2011:
Oklahoma third-highest in meth use among workers
Meth isn't just for unemployed hillbillies anymore. In 2010, Oklahoma's positive workplace drug tests for methamphetamine were 240 percent above the national average, according to Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index.
Hawaii won the dubious title of having the highest number of meth-positive tests, and is 410 percent higher than the national average. Oklahoma's neighbor Arkansas came in second, at 280 percent higher than the national going rate.
Kansas came in 80 percent higher than the national average.
Quest Diagnostics published five years of data that suggest meth's national decline has stopped, and the drug's popularity may be moving east.
This was the first year the index included a state-by-state analysis of meth positives, which was based on more than 4.5 million urine specimens collected from the general workforce from Jan.-Dec. 2010.
So what is our pee telling us? It shows Western and Midwestern states have dramatically higher meth positive rates than the national average.
Rampant meth use is not breaking news in Tulsa, which has become a hotbed of meth labs in recent years. On Oct. 9, a homeowner discovered a massive, unprecedented meth lab operation in a vacant west Tulsa rent house.
While most meth labs contain only one meth-making pot, the west Tulsa operation didn't throw out their containers after use, and instead accrued 135 pots, which created an especially hazardous scene.
Overall, Quest Diagnostics found a sharp drop in meth use in the general workforce, from 0.18 percent in 2006 to 0.11 percent in 2008. Between 2009 and 2010, however, the positivity rate held steady at 0.10 percent.
Tulsa's meth lab statistics, however, have ballooned since 2009. In 1998, the first year the Tulsa Police Department's Special Investigations Division began keeping records on meth lab busts, TPD discovered 47 meth labs. By 2003, that number increased to 211, a 349 percent increase.
To combat these skyrocketing numbers, a behind-the-counter pseudoephedrine law was put into effect in 2004. And for awhile, it worked.
Meth lab busts dropped from 211 in 2003 to a new low of 20 by 2007, about a 91 percent decrease. But in 2008, meth labs doubled to 43.
In a Quest Diagnostics news release, Steven Shoptaw, a National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded clinical researcher who studies medications and behavioral therapies for meth dependence, said, "While many people use methamphetamine for its euphoric effects, I've also worked with patients who, paralyzed by the recession and juggling multiple jobs and family responsibilities, started using methamphetamine for its 'functional' stimulant benefit. What they didn't realize is that methamphetamine can wreak havoc on their judgment, their health, their families and their lives."
Recently, highly productive "super labs" operated by cross-border drug cartels are throwing fuel on the meth fire, according to the release. These operations create new access points for meth in the U.S.
Add in the proliferation of mobile one-pot meth labs using a simpler "shake and bake" method -- used, evidently at least 135 times, in the West Tulsa house -- and you've got a recipe for a national, full-scale meth problem.
On a positive note, the index found the national five-year positivity rate for cocaine in the general workforce dropped 65 percent.
The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index is published annually as a public service, and examines positivity rates -- the proportion of positive results for each drug to all such drug tests performed -- among three major testing populations: the general workforce; federally mandated, safety-sensitive works like pilots, bus and truck drivers; and workers in nuclear power plants.
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