The oil boom brought illicit drugs into North Dakota, but just because the oil boom has slowed down does not mean that drug related cases have slowed down too.
According to data from the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, there were 434 methamphetamine and amphetamine related arrests in 2012. In 2016, that number rose to 1,958 and that number continues to rise every year. Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said that meth-related cases are the most common and they have not dropped since the oil boom.
“Methamphetamine use in western North Dakota is an epidemic and has been for 10 years,” Henning said. The drug crime does not stop in the west. According to crime statistics data, there were also 289 amphetamine/methamphetamine arrests in the southeast region of the state, with 282 coming from Cass County alone.
Stark County Sheriff Terry Oestreich believes that many crimes in his county are related to drugs in some way or form and his law enforcement crew and himself are doing everything they can to fight the drug epidemic.
“It can start with a traffic stop; it can start with a burglary or a theft investigation because if you’re addicted to these drugs, you can’t make enough money at a regular job to pay for your habit,” Oestreich said. “That’s a lot of smaller thefts and burglaries where they’re kind of low key, and that’s certainly drug related.”
Amphetamines and methamphetamines are not the only illicit drugs that have snuck their way into North Dakota. Heroin, fentanyl and other opiates like them have begun to move into the area, causing overdoses and potential death.
“We’re seeing overdoses in a far more frequent basis,” Henning said. “Before heroin showed up, we had a meth epidemic as far as I’m concerned and that continues, but there must have been a time where methamphetamine was so expensive here that other marketers felt that there must have been a market for heroin.” Henning also said it is alarming to see these types of drug-related cases come into his office with younger and younger users. Oestreich said it is important to educate young adults and kids about how harmful these drugs are and how they can affect their lives.
“It’s not a pleasant life,” Oestreich said. ” It might seem that way the first time you’re getting high, but it means you can’t hold a decent job down. It means your dreams of success are going to go out of the window. We have to educate our kids on how serious this is.”