NC reports 22 percent jump in meth lab busts
Posted January 9, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A nationwide database that tracks purchases of over-the-counter medicines containing pseudoephedrine helped North Carolina authorities break up a record 561 methamphetamine labs last year, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Thursday.
The figure is 22 percent higher than the 460 meth labs busted in 2012.
Wilkes County had the highest number of meth lab busts last year, at 50, followed by 46 in Onslow County. Closer to the Triangle, Sampson County tied for fourth, with 27 labs broken up, and Johnston County ranked No. 8, with 22 busts.
“Investigators now have at their fingertips information that can help them find and stop dangerous meth labs by tracking buys of the drug’s key ingredient,” Cooper said in a statement.
Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement officers statewide have access to information about pseudoephedrine purchases through the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx, helping them to identify likely meth cooks and find more meth labs.
So-called "one pot" meth labs use a small amount of pseudoephedrine to make the highly addictive drug in a plastic soda bottle. The labs are easy to move and conceal, which Cooper said creates challenges for law enforcement.
“Technology is leading us to meth labs we otherwise wouldn’t know about,” he said.
North Carolina pharmacies log all purchases of products containing pseudoephedrine through NPLEx. The system also helps block sales of the chemical if the buyer has already reached the legal limit of purchases. State law limits purchases of medicines with pseudoephedrine to two packages at once and three packages within 30 days.
NPLEx blocked 44,299 purchases in 2013 that contained enough pseudoephedrine to have made approximately 280 pounds of methamphetamine, authorities said.
Pharmacies began using the database two years ago, and it connects North Carolina with 23 other states, which Cooper said makes it harder for meth cooks to skirt the law by crossing state lines or shopping at multiple pharmacies.
A North Carolina law that took effect Dec. 1 also makes it a felony for any convicted meth cook or user to possess products containing pseudoephedrine, and Cooper said the NPLEx system should help law enforcement identify violators.
“Tougher laws and new technology are helping, but smaller meth labs continue to pose a threat to safety,” Cooper said. “We need more law enforcement along with better public awareness to fight meth labs.”