by David Williams, HNN Freelance Correspondent

The New Ice Age is bringing about the biggest change in Huntington's illegal drug acttivity since the shift from oxycontin to heroin a few years ago. Meth and Ice have always been big players in West Virginia but they are on their way to becoming Huntington's biggest problem and may soon replace Heroin as Huntington's problem child.

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a powerful stimulant drug known for its euphoric effects and the energy it triggers in users. Crystal meth, or ice, as it’s commonly called, are the same drug as meth, but in a more potent, distilled form.

In recent years, opiates were kings of the drug trade in Huntington and most urban areas. Meth and Ice were more popular in rural areas. It was referred to as a " trailer park drug." While heroin dominated Huntington and Charleston, all one had to do to witness the popularity of Meth or Ice was journey to Sissonville, Eastern Kentucky, or even Wayne.

The significance of this transition from opiates to meth is very apparent with positive and negative affects. The main reason it is occurring is that users are being intimidated by the overdoses from opiates. There have been over 1,000 overdoses a year in Huntington the last three years from opiates. Usually the only overdoses from meth is when it is used with heroin or spiked with fentanyl, a very strong opiate.

Also, as a person uses heroin for a period of time they use up all of their resources paying for heroin, so they switch to Meth or Ice. The reason for the switch is Meth and Ice are cheaper and the high last longer.

With recent drug raids on heroin dealers, more pressure is put on the heroin pipeline from Detroit to Huntington. This can hurt the availability of Heroin in Huntington. A lot of Meth and Ice are from Huntington dealers selling to Huntington users. So those drugs are always available. Several new Ice Houses have opened in Huntington.

Heroin users that are trying to get clean are getting help from suboxone. Several new grants are making it easier to get suboxone. Many users are getting suboxone and Vivitrol shots for free...and this is getting them off of Heroin and keeping them from getting sick. They use Ice and Meth to get a buzz because the opiate blockers do not have any affect on those drugs.

One other negative aspect that we will not see as much with the transition from Heroin is the turf wars we seen over drug dealers fighting their competition. The comment Huntington officials said about last years spike in violence was that as long as you weren't involved in the drug trade that the chances were very high that you would not get shot.

Meth and Ice makes their users more violent and angry. We will see more fights, stabbings, and assaults due to this. These violent activities may not always be directed toward those that deal with drugs. The violence may be directed toward family members, law enforcement, robbery victims and innocent bystanders.

I have seen an increase of homeless ice and meth users. Downtown, 4 and a Half Alley, and the area around 6th Avenue Sheetz are full of teens to middle twenties adults roaming the area at night with backpacks. They spend every dime they get on drugs. They rarely sleep because they stay up for days at a time on this "super speed." When they do finally sleep they take over abandoned houses.

Many of the drug users taking over abandoned houses are using Ice and Meth. An abandoned house on 1304 5th Avenue has become refuge for homeless users. The house has been boarded up by the city, but determined drug users find ways back into the building. Several illegal activities go on there including drug use, drug dealing, prostitution. Harboring stolen items, overdoses, and several incidents of violence and fighting. A fire has happened there recently as well. There are many abandoned houses and similar activities happening like this throughout Huntington. Wherever you find such a house, chances are high you have stumbled upon some ice or meth users.

Meth and Ice are made with toxic materials like Liquid Plummer, charcoal lighter fluid, and battery acid. These materials have a very harmful affect on a human body after a peroid of time. They also cause psychosis. Psychosis also occurs when users stay up for days and do not eat right. Many users see hallucinations. It is dangerous when they act on these hallucinations. Some users have killed or hurt people thinking they are demons.

Right now the priority in Huntington is the focus on stopping Heroin and the Detroit to Huntington pipeline. These are noble goals but attention must be proactive and focus on the incoming New Huntington Ice Age. The importance of awareness of meth and ice is because the dealers are different and the affect of the drugs are different. We will have to fight meth and Ice differently than we fight Heroin.