Attorney General: Montana Struggling with a Drug ‘Epidemic’

New report states drug-related offenses up 559 percent since 1980

By Justin Franz
Meth confiscated by the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force. Beacon File Photo

Substance abuse and drug-related criminal offenses have skyrocketed in Montana according to a new report from the Montana Department of Justice.

The report includes data showing that drug-related criminal offenses are up 559 percent since 1980. The report also notes that more than a decade after a methamphetamine epidemic spurred the Montana Meth Project, the drug’s use has started to grow again.

“The data is clear: Our state is in the midst of an epidemic,” Fox said.

While the report is “grim,” Fox stated in a press release that it would provide a roadmap to help the state address its drug epidemic.

“Our report will allow us to better identify how state resources are used to target substance abuse,” Fox said. “From there, we will identify gaps, inefficiencies, what works and what doesn’t work, and have a more complete understanding of how the State of Montana can better align efforts to enhance necessary communication between agencies, and improve outcomes for those suffering with addiction.”

Fox said he hopes to be able to put forth a strategic plan prior to the 2019 Legislature.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said the report reflects what his officers have seen in recent years. The amount of methamphetamine that is confiscated by the Northwest Montana Drug Task Force has skyrocketed in recent years, Curry said. An increase in local drug use has also resulted in an increase in property crime in the last year.

“Whenever drug use goes up, so does the property crime and theft,” he said.

Montana’s Drug Epidemic By The Numbers 

559 percent: Increase in drug offenses since 1980

917: Drug offenses in Montana in 1980

1,414: Drug offenses in Montana in 1990

5,425: Drug offenses in Montana in 2000

8,110: Drug offenses in Montana in 2015

500 percent: Increase of methamphetamine-related criminal violations in the last five years

1,557 percent: Increase of heroin-related criminal violations from 2010 to 2015

1 in 10: Number of Montanans currently abusing drugs and alcohol.

19.8 percent: Amount of Montanans who regularly binge drink (consuming five or more drinks during a short period of time)

16.3 percent: Number of U.S. adults who regularly binge drink

61 percent: Amount of Montana high school students who regularly drink and engage in binge-drinking behavior

1 in 4: Number of Montanans who reported using an illicit drug in the last month.

$796 million: Total charges for ER and hospital visits in Montana for substance abuse-related visits


Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.