Today in depressing statistics, we have the number of meth labs busted in West Virginia for 2012. Unfortunately, it is a lot. On average, state police there have uncovered a total of 1.09 home meth labs per day so far this year -- 59 labs discovered in 54 days, through February 24. That volume is on track to make 2012 a record year in meth-lab seizures in the state, according to today's Charleston Gazette. "At the current pace, meth lab busts would exceed the state's record seizure of 353 labs in 2005." Current pace, by the way, yields 400 busted labs. The 2011 total was 229.
Methamphetamine, of course, is a highly additive stimulant that can be made by cooking easy-to-buy ingredients (with often dangerous results). West Virginia's total is especially unfortunate since it helps reinforce some awful stereotypes about meth users populating rural states like West Virginia. It also keeps with the trend of increases in home lab seizures nationally. The natural question to ask when presented with record-breaking numbers of arrests is whether increased prevalence or increased enforcement of the crime is the reason for the spike -- or might both be at play? And though "the growing popularity of the meth-making shortcut known as 'shake-and-bake,' in which the drug is concocted quickly in a soda bottle" means recently there have been more smaller-scale labs to bust, as the AP recently put it, stepped-up enforcement also seems to be driving the bust totals up -- nationwide, the number of meth users actually declined from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010, according to one government survey.