OBN holds forum to update citizens

By KAITLYN DILLARD
Staff Writer

A forum was held Thursday, Feb. 1 to inform Okmulgee residents of the current assessment for drug threats going into 2018. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics presented its findings on recent trends concerning controlled substances in the state of Oklahoma, finding that methamphetamine poses the most illicit threat to the state.

“The purpose of the drug threat assessment is to give you an idea of the drug threats that we see, through research and through experience, that we see around the state,” OBN Director John Scully said in the opening statement of the forum. “And try to give you some ideas of what we are doing to combat the drug threats.”

According to the 2017 Oklahoma Drug Threat Assessment, law enforcement has seen a decrease in meth labs, with only 65 labs seized in 2016, but key indicators show meth’s availability has increased dramatically. Unaffected by seasons like other controlled substances, such as marijuana, meth is always readily in supply due to it being manmade.

“Meth is one of the most illicit drugs that affects Oklahoma,” Agent in Charge Ratke said. “It’s probably one of the, as far as our overdose and other factors, it probably effects us more than any other drug.”

Reports from 2015-2016 show a dramatic rise in numbers associated with meth submittals and treatment. In 2015, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation lab handled 8,058 submittals related to meth, while in 2016 they handled 10,027. Overdoses related to meth also increased by 51 cases from 2015-2016.

Another prevalent controlled substance in Oklahoma currently is diverted pharmaceuticals. Mainly in the form of opioid pain killers, diverted pharmaceuticals are a continued threat in Oklahoma, leading to the majority of near fatal and fatal overdoses with 345 deaths reported in 2016. Fentanyl was the focus of the opioid discussion at the forum. According to the drug threat assessment, the OBN acquired seven pounds of heroin that was laced with fentanyl in 2016 and also dismantled a fentanyl lab in rural Cleveland County.

The OBN noticed the availability of marijuana continues to be widespread, and according to the OBN’s report, remains the most prevalent drug in Oklahoma.

“Now then that marijuana has been legalized, or decriminalized, in some states,” Agent in Charge Williams said during his presentation on marijuana and its affect on Oklahoma. “We have seen kind of a move to where we see more high-grade, and I say high-grade, marijuana come in from other states. It’s already processed and it’s already grown somewhere else.”

The trafficking of marijuana has increased after the decriminalization in other states with the OBN’s interdiction unit seizing 1,490 pounds in 2016. Though it is one of the most prevalent drugs in Oklahoma, there are still no overdose deaths associated with the controlled substance.

Oklahoma, according to the drug threat assessment, has seen a decreased presence of cocaine with the popularity of meth on the rise. A slow decline in submittals began in 2015 with 556 cases submitted to OSBI’s lab compared to 556 submittals in 2013. However, a spike in cocaine submittals happened in 2016 with 496 submittals, but treatment numbers continued to show a decline in admissions in 2016 with only 864.

With increased statutes against other illicit drugs, mainly meth and prescription pills, the State of Oklahoma has experienced a rise in the availability of heroin. Submittals related to heroin more than doubled between 2015 (224) and 2016 (442), with admissions also increasing by 300 cases between 2015 and 2016.

The outlook in the 2017 Oklahoma Drug Threat Assessment focuses in on meth as the controlled substance that poses the greatest threat to Oklahoma due to a cheap price and availability. With a more strenuous hold on meth and other illicit drugs, the OBN will be watching cocaine and heroin trends.

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