Already this year, 160 methamphetamine "labs" have been found in Harrison County, Sheriff Joe Myers reported this week. That amounts to more than one illegal drug manufacturing operation for every 100 people who live in the county.
And for every meth lab law enforcement officers find, there may be four to 10 others escaping detection, Myers added.
As a description of a problem that ought to worry the public, the word "epidemic" probably is overused. Not in this situation. Illegal drugs have become an epidemic in Ohio.
In addition to meth, the epidemic includes heroin, prescription painkillers, cocaine and synthetic versions of hallucinogens, including marijuana. Buckeye State residents are under siege and, frankly, we know of no cavalry riding to the rescue.
East Ohio residents worried about what the drug invasion is doing to our communities can do little to curb it. Law enforcement agencies work hard and courageously, frequently scoring successes. But for every drug manufacturer or pusher put behind bars, three or four others seem eager to take his place.
If the epidemic worries and, perhaps, scares you, there are a few steps you can take to fight back.
Start at home, of course. If you have children, explain the dangers of illegal drugs to them. Don't leave your own prescription painkillers accessible to them. If you know someone with a drug problem, beg him or her to get help - and do what you can to assist.
And, as Myers pointed out, the public can be eyes and ears for his department. If you believe illegal drug activity of any kind is going on around you, let the authorities know - but do not attempt to intervene yourself. The equipment and chemicals used in meth labs can be very dangerous. Don't be afraid of sending police or sheriff's deputies on a wild goose chase. As Myers put it, "I would rather drive two hours to check out a false lead than have someone hurt when finding one of these portable labs."
Think this is like some other concerns, that eventually, it will just "blow away"? Hardly.
The 160 meth labs found already this year surpass the 113 discovered during all of last year. If anything, the scourge is spreading.