Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst revealed a startling statistic on Thursday in the relationship between methamphetamine and other drug use and domestic violence in Montana: people are dying, and in far greater numbers than you might think.

"This is the reason why we take such a hard line on domestic violence cases," Pabst said. "In 2013 to 2014, approximately half of the homicides in Montana were attributable to domestic violence. In addition, 80 to 90 percent of our current dependent and neglect cases involving child protective actions involve methamphetamine use by the parents. It's huge. Meth increases the incidents of neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, as well as the environmental exposure of the toxins to children."

That statistic comes from the Montana Board of Crime Control.

According to the Meth Project, methamphetamine overstimulates the amygdala, the emotional control center in the brain, and compromises brain circuits needed to control impulsive behaviors. This inability to control behavior and an amped-up state filled with anxiety and paranoia make users prone to aggression and violence. 

Pabst said meth use in Missoula is rising dramatically.

"In 2013 we had 34 meth cases," she said. "Two years later, in 2015, we had 91 cases. This year, we're probably going to see more than that. In metropolitan Montana areas like Missoula, Great Falls and Billings, we're seeing a pretty similar increase in methamphetamine trafficking. In the last six years, felony drug arrests are up by 100 percent."

Pabst said most of the methamphetamine being bought and sold in Missoula is not home made, or even from Spokane or Seattle.

"The methamphetamine is coming from the super labs in Mexico," she said. "So, it's really difficult to take a proactive approach. Of course, the law enforcement community is doing all it can to deal with what I would call an epidemic, but until the cartels and the super labs in Mexico can be controlled, we're not going to see a reduction in supply, and sadly, probably not too much of a reduction in the use and abuse of the drug here in Missoula."

Scott Price and Sarah McKnight, the individuals charged with robbery and murder in December in the death of Lonette Keehner, stated that during the incidents that occurred that day, the two were high on methamphetamine. It was also alleged that Emanuel Gomez, the man accused of beating Charlie Ann Wyrick to death and dumping her body in Pattee Canyon last December, was also under the influence of methamphetamine when the crimes were committed.

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