ATLANTA — Hidden in plain sight, meth labs are secretly operating in residential neighborhoods in all 159 counties in Georgia, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Meth suppliers chasing the increasing meth demand, going after the huge profits are contributing to the tragedy of addiction that leads to record numbers of meth-related deaths in Georgia.

"It's in every county in our state. And it's inundated our crime lab," said Deneen Kilcrease, the Chemistry Section Manager of the GBI Crime Lab in DeKalb County.

"County after county, the number one drug is methamphetamine," Kilcrease said Monday.  "We only see about half the amount of cocaine that we do methamphetamine."

Seizures of meth in Georgia are rising steadily every year:

  • 12,703 in 2015
  • 13,634 in 2016
  • 14,742 in 2017

That's an increase during that time of about 16 percent.  The GBI is still compiling 2018 numbers, but another record increase is expected.

"It is a trend that really has some longevity to it," Kilcrease said.

Some of the reasons, according to the GBI is that the supply is so huge, profit margins are stratospheric, the meth is easy to transport-- especially in its liquid form, which is difficult to detect. 

Conversion labs, that quickly turn the liquid into crystal for street sale, are easily hidden in residential neighborhoods.

Most of Georgia's meth cases are in Metro Atlanta and in Savannah, according to the GBI, partly because of the larger populations in those areas, and partly because there are more law enforcement agencies and officers in those areas who are assigned to investigate drug trafficking.

Kilcrease said meth is not as potent as opioids, but "methamphetamine is here with a much greater volume, so even though it doesn't have the short-term acute effects, it is still incredibly dangerous... [and] very popular, yes."

And very deadly.

The latest numbers show meth deaths in Georgia increased, in just one year--from 2016 to 2017-- by 40 percent. The GBI said Monday that the 2018 count, which is still underway, has already surpassed the 248 deaths of 2017.


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