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Portable meth labs contributing to the number of North Carolina busts

2010 was a record-setting year for meth busts in North Carolina. Authorities are attributing the sharp and steady rise to production process improvements made by those cooking meth.

North Carolina police uncovered 157 meth labs in 2007, a number which rose to 235 in 2010. 46 labs were discovered in our state just this past February. A number that high hasn't been seen since April of 2005, well before North Carolina passed a law to place all products containing pseudoephedrine - the main ingredient in cooking meth - behind the counter. That move by the state caused a significant dip in production for a while, but producers of the drug have adapted.

Authorities have noticed that cooking meth has become more portable than ever, as producers of the drug have pared down the ingredients and materials necessary to a small list that could fit in any backpack. Meth can now be cooked in a 2-liter bottle with a few grams of pseudoephedrine and a little know-how. Producers are skirting the drug's behind-the-counter status and staying off the buyer registry by recruiting many different individuals to purchase the drug, commonly found in nasal decongestants, on the cook's behalf.

Despite the fact that a meth "lab" can now be as small as a 2-liter soda bottle, the residue and bi-products created by the drug's production are no less dangerous. Toxic ammonia-smelling gasses fill the air and sludge often leaks out of the production vessel. Haz-mat crews are brought in as a routine matter of procedure to attend to the evidence in meth lab busts, as exposure to these chemical bi-products is known to be quite harmful.

Police report that these portable meth labs appear to have originated in Tennessee in just the past few years, a particular state where meth is extremely popular (2,100 lab busts there last year as opposed to the 235 busts in North Carolina). The first bust of a portable meth lab was made there in 2009. Along with the extremely addicting nature of the drug, this modern "shake-and-bake" version of the meth lab only aids to increase the rate of meth usage throughout North Carolina and the entire country.

Source: BeaumontEnterprise.com "Portable recipe means more meth lab busts in NC" by Martha Waggoner, AP, 3/30/11

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