The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

State News

April 5, 2010

Oklahoma: Meth labs again on the rise

The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Narcotics investigators in Oklahoma say the number of methamphetamine labs is again increasing across the state.

The number of meth labs declined in Oklahoma after 2004 when the state became the first in the nation to limit the sale of pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is found in many cold medicines and is a key ingredient in making meth.

The number of methamphetamine labs has increased by more than 500 in the past three years, according to figures from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. In 2009, there were 743 labs discovered. Just three years before that, 148 labs were found.

“It’s always a game of cat and mouse,” said Darrell Weaver, director of the bureau. “Law enforcement adapts and criminals keep finding a way to work around it.”

The number of deaths from methamphetamine overdoses has also climbed. In 2008, 27 deaths were reported. In the first nine months of 2009, the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office reported 51 deaths from methamphetamine overdoses, Narcotics Bureau figures show.

“That’s alarming,” Weaver said. “When we have more drugs, the results are more bodies.”

There were methamphetamine overdose deaths in 20 of the state’s 77 counties. Tulsa County had the most with 18 meth overdoses, according to the figures.

The 2004 law limiting access to pseudoephedrine in Oklahoma requires buyers to add their name to a state registry and include their date of birth. People are limited to about 9 grams, or roughly six boxes, of the decongestant in a 30-day period, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the bureau.

Congress followed Oklahoma’s lead and made it federal law to keep the over-the-counter decongestant locked up.

Following the law, lab numbers dropped, Woodward said.

But today, those numbers are creeping back up as more people turn to the “one pot” or “shake and bake” method that requires much less equipment to make. Labs are often contained in a single 20-ounce soda bottle, Woodward said.

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