This week Arizona 360 looked into an ongoing trend in Arizona: increasing meth seizures at the southern border. Demand for the drug remains prevalent across the country. Nationwide, seizures have doubled over the last four years, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Arizona 360 heard from the family of a 27-year-old woman who recently died after struggling with addiction to meth and opioids for several years. The Pima County Coroner's Office ruled Kelsey Beitel's death a drowning. Her parents, Jerry and Louise Beitel, blame drugs for sending their daughter on a downward spiral that resulted in her death.
"We know that our daughter was in there somewhere, but those drugs — she was basically a prisoner to those drugs in the end," Louise Beitel said.
The Beitels said they wish they had more authority over Kelsey's treatment, but they were unable to act because she was an adult. The couple is now advocating for legislative change that will allow others to intervene on behalf of a relative dealing with substance abuse.
"When you're on these drugs … you're not in that cognitive state of mind to make a rational decision for your safety or health," Jerry Beitel said.
More people are using meth and opioids simultaneously, according to Leonard Ditmanson, a doctor at em>Arizona Rehab Campus. Arizona 360 heard from Ditmanson about the reasons the two drugs are used in conjunction more often and challenges associated with treating substance abuse.
"Methamphetamine is used to prevent the person from falling asleep or nodding off … an antidote, if you will, to the sedative effects of the heroin," Ditmanson said. "This is chronic disease management. The concept for a lot of addiction is that you just have an intervention of some kind, maybe a five-day detox, a 30-day residential treatment, even a 90-day residential treatment. I think that modelling is not appropriate anymore."
Ditmanson treated Kelsey Beitel at Arizona Rehab Campus in Tucson beginning in 2017. He said she went through detox at least four times.
Meth seizures in Arizona have more than tripled over the last six years. Seizures increased nearly 380 percent at ports of entry between 2012 and 2018. Border Patrol saw a 180 percent increase in that same time span. DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman explained why production of the drug has shifted largely to Mexico. It dates back to the early 2000s when the U.S. restricted access to pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter drug found in cold medicine that was commonly used to make meth.
"It shrunk the market for clandestine laboratories here in Arizona," Coleman said. "But it pushed all the major meth manufacturing down to Mexico, because Mexico doesn't have the same regulations in place."
Mexico has since restricted access to pseudoephedrine, according to Coleman. But drug cartels responded by changing their methods for manufacturing meth.
A lawsuit filed against multiple Arizona departments accuses the state of violating the National Voting Registration Act, potentially preventing hundreds of thousands of residents from voting. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona teamed up with the Arizona chapter of the National League of Women Voters and other nonprofits to sue the Arizona Secretary of State, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
As Nancy Montoya reports, the issue stems from when residents report a change of address with either ADOT or DES. The 1993 federal law stipulates that these departments must automatically update a resident's voter registration address when they receive information about a change of address. That currently does not happen in Arizona.
The lawsuit's plaintiffs argue many voters are unaware they're responsible for updating the information, or if they make a mistake their names could be purged from the voting rolls. The lawsuit aims to force the state to begin updating the information automatically.