Problems associated with a growing methamphetamine epidemic, coupled with the hope offered through treatment, is the focus of a week-long series of stories airing on Lexington’s WTVQ TV-36.

“The focus is on the methamphetamine problem,” said Greg Stotelmyer, a WTVQ reporter who spent the day with UNITE and local law enforcement officials to see what was happening “on the front lines.”

The series, entitled “So Much Meth,” began airing on the 11 p.m. newscast Monday, May 23, with an examination of the struggles faced by addicts now undergoing treatment at the Chad’s Hope Teen Challenge Center in Clay County.

• View Monday’s episode click here.

Tuesday’s segment explained about the chemicals used in meth making, the issue of smurfing – purchases of pseudoephedrine-containing products needed in the manufacturing process – and UNITE’s efforts to uncover illegal labs. Kentucky currently ranks fourth in the nation for meth lab incidents.

Stotelmyer rode with UNITE detectives as they investigated pseudoephedrine purchases from a Monticello pharmacy on May 11 . That investigation led to a home where evidence of meth-making was discovered and resulted in an arrest.

• View Tuesday’s episode click here.

• View photos from WTVQ’s visit to Monticello click here.

Wednesday’s focus examined the pros and cons in the debate over requiring prescriptions for drugs that contain pseudoephedrine. A bill to that effect that failed to get a vote in the 2010 Kentucky General Assembly. The legislation would have required doctor prescriptions for only 15 of the more than 150 over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.

“There’s an easy fix and we in law enforcement are just asking for the tools to do our job and that tool is to schedule pseudoephedrine,” Dan Smoot, UNITE’s law enforcement director, commented during the news broadcast.

Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers laid the blame at the feet of the pharmaceutical industry.

“Yes, yes, it’s about the money,” Rogers told Stotelmyer. “This is a huge billions of dollars a year source of income for the pharmaceuticals.”

Rogers acknowledged that some people may be inconvenienced, but that reasonable steps to solving Kentucky’s meth lab problem is a matter of common sense – just like having to stop at a red light.

• View Wednesday’s episode click here.

In part four of the series WTVQ examined how meth making and the cycle of addition affects children.

“It’s the fatalities that wake us up, but there are hundreds of thousands of children living this every single day,” said Holly Dye, executive director of the National Drug Endangered Children Training and Advocacy Center in Lexington.

• View Thursday’s episode click here.

In the final segment of the ABC 36 News special report, “So Much Meth,” the station focused on how the meth problem puts an addition strain on law enforcement and reflected on why more isn’t being done on either the state or federal level to help with the problem.

• View Friday’s episode click here.

“Meth is a statewide problem, but we have seen our share of problems here in southern and eastern Kentucky,” said Karen Kelly, director of Operation UNITE. “It’s a complicated issue that effects everyone. Hopefully this special will draw attention to the problems our families and neighbors face on a daily basis.”

During the first three months of 2011 there were 379 meth lab incidents – 125 more than for the same period last year, which saw a record number of incidents.

In southern and eastern Kentucky, Laurel and Wayne counties have the greatest number of reported meth lab incidents for the first quarter of the year, ranking first and seventh, respectively.