Methamphetamine seized by law enforcement sits next to a bottle of baby powder for scale. (Courtesy Photo | Department of Public Safety)

Methamphetamine seized by law enforcement sits next to a bottle of baby powder for scale. (Courtesy Photo | Department of Public Safety)

Meth use surging throughout state, in Juneau

Statewide report gives look into Southeast drug trade

As talk of the state’s opioid crisis dominated the news in recent years, the amount of methamphetamine use in Alaska has been surging, according to statewide numbers released Wednesday.

The Department of Public Safety released its annual drug report Wednesday, detailing the number of drug offenses and drugs seized during 2017. Alcohol continues to be the most abused substance in the state, the numbers show, but the amount of heroin and meth seized both rose dramatically in 2017.

The amount of meth seized statewide increased more than four-fold from 5,434 grams seized in 2016 to 24,909 seized in 2017. This increase in meth usage across the state has been happening over the past few years, as the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services released a report in November 2017 saying meth-related deaths increased by four times over recent years. From 2008-2010, there were 1.4 meth-related deaths per 100,000 people, and from 2014-2016, there were 5.8 meth-related deaths per 100,000 people, DHSS found.

The Juneau Police Department seized 3,903 grams of meth in 2017, according to the report, which is almost four times as much as any other drug. That’s also more than three times as much meth as the department seized in 2016 (1,234 grams), according to the 2016 statewide report.

The statewide report went into detail about drug trafficking patterns throughout the state, stating that Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) are responsible for a large portion of the drug trade in Alaska and throughout the country. This is not expected to change anytime soon, the report states.

“The number of methamphetamine labs encountered in recent years in Alaska is statistically null,” the report states. “However, cheap methamphetamine manufactured in “super labs” in Mexico continues to be imported into the state of Alaska.”

Anchorage serves as a hub for drug traffickers, the report states, and the drugs are then distributed throughout the Interior and Southcentral regions. For Southeast, the situation is much different.

Drug trafficking in Southeast is done mostly through large commercial air carriers in the area, the mail and the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS), according to the report. Juneau and Ketchikan serve as the two main hubs for drugs coming into the region, according to the report.

“Gaps in travel documentation and law enforcement presence allows for relative ease of trafficking drugs from outside of Alaska into the Southeast region,” the report states. “Ocean shipping and the AMHS provides Southeast with two significant means of importing illicit drugs into the area that are not prevalent in the Southcentral and Interior regions.”

Alaska is attractive to drug-trafficking organizations for a couple main reasons, according to the report. Traffickers can get more money for drugs in Alaska due to how remote and difficult-to-access many locations are, the report finds.

Secondly, many law enforcement agencies are short-staffed and responsible for policing huge areas. As of Aug. 3, there were 50 vacancies among the Alaska State Troopers. JPD has also dealt with a shortage of officers in recent years, and as of earlier this summer was still eight officers short of having a full staff.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in Home

Juneau high school seniors Edward Hu of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (left), Elizabeth Djajalie of Thunder Mountain High School (center) and Kenyon Jordan of Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School. (Photos of Hu and Jordan by Juneau Empire staff, photo of Djajalie by Victor Djajalie)
Senior Spotlight 2024: Three top students take very different paths to graduation stage

Ceremonies for Juneau’s three high schools take place Sunday.

The entrance road to Bartlett Regional Hospital. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Bartlett Regional Hospital looking at eliminating or trimming six ‘non-core’ programs to stabilize finances

Rainforest Recovery Center, autism therapy, crisis stabilization, hospice among programs targeted.

(Clarise Larson/ Juneau Empire file photo)
Both JDHS soccer teams advance to state semifinals after decisive wins

Top-seeded girls stay undefeated with 5-0 win against Palmer, second-seeded boys top Homer 3-1.

Mayor Beth Weldon (left), Deputy Mayor Michelle Bonnet Hale and Juneau Assembly member Paul Kelly discussion proposals for next year’s mill rate during an Assembly Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Assembly members support lower 10.04 mill rate ahead of final vote on next year’s CBJ budget

Initial proposal called for raising current rate of 10.16 mills to 10.32 mills.

A king salmon. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Biden administration advances bid to list Gulf of Alaska king salmon as endangered or threatened

Experts say request could restrict activity affecting river habitats such as road, home construction

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

Tom Abbas discusses the hose his boat needs as shop owner and vintage halibut jacket provider Jim Geraghty shows his customer the options. Racks of dry-cleaned woolen jackets hang among the marine supply aisles in Gerahgty’s Lemon Creek business. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Coats of many colors: Halibut jackets make a big splash again

“Pre-owned” wool garments from many decades ago being tracked down for resale by Juneau marine shop.

Most Read