Today's front page features an article about police arresting a married couple after finding an alleged methamphetamine lab in their apartment in downtown Elkins.
This kind of incident is becoming disturbingly commonplace. Last June, when two young women were arrested on meth-related charges in the parking lot of an Elkins fast food restaurant - in broad daylight - the story was so unusual that it sent a shiver through the community. So far in 2013, however, The Inter-Mountain has averaged printing several local meth lab arrest articles each week. We applaud the hard work of local law enforcement, but this is not an encouraging trend.
Of course, it's not just a local problem. Across West Virginia, the number of meth lab arrests has increased in recent years. Police busted 229 meth labs across the state in 2011, and during the first two months of 2012, state police were averaging more than one home meth lab bust per day, according to the Charleston Gazette.
Why are home meth labs on the rise in West Virginia? Unfortunately, the manufacture of methamphetamine has become a sort of twisted new American dream for some people. They are tempted by the opportunity to "make" the drug in their homes - or cars - using household items bought at local stores. They believe they can manufacture the meth, get rich quick selling it, and enjoy sampling the merchandise as well.
Their dream usually doesn't work out so well in reality. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that destroys users' bodies. Anyone tempted by fantasies of a happy life making meth should study police mug shots of people arrested on meth-related charges. Those photos can be sobering, to say the least.
The manufacturing system itself is highly dangerous. The meth-making shortcut known as "shake-and-bake" has been growing in popularity, meaning that many modern meth "labs" are simply a pile of buckets, cans and soda bottles. Those bottles can explode, making "shake-and-bake" labs extra hazardous for the criminals.
Local law enforcement is stepping up its efforts to eliminate the scourge of meth in our community. Unfortunately, it won't completely go away until all area residents truly realize how destructive and deadly it can be.