Local News

NC reports 22 percent jump in meth lab busts

Posted January 9

Police broke up a methamphetamine manufacturing operation in a Fayetteville home on Dec. 29, 2013.

— 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.”

6 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • Rebelyell55 Jan 10, 11:39 a.m.

    Neither a Republican or Democrate, but I would vote for Roy.

  • disgusted2010 Jan 9, 6:22 p.m.

    This is good news for the citizens of NC.

    Come on Roy everyone knows it is an election year and... View More

    — Posted by less_govt_is_better_govt

    It is not an election year, but Ol' Roy is already running for governor. He is trying to turn around his anti-law enforcement reputation. Problem is it is too little, too late and if you don't believe this just ask a representative sample of the lawyers and SBI agents who work for him.

  • sinew1 Jan 9, 2:54 p.m.

    22% higher than 2012 meth busts...oh yea, it's election year.

  • homebrewer Jan 9, 1:11 p.m.

    NPLEx blocked 44,299 purchases in 2013 that contained enough pseudoephedrine to have made approximately 280 pounds of methamphetamine, authorities said.

    And I guarantee at least 35,000 of those attempted purchases were folks trying to buy enough to get them and their families through cold season but hey War on Drugs!!!

  • GravyPig Jan 9, 12:32 p.m.

    "So-called "one pot" meth labs use a small amount of pseudoephedrine to make the highly addictive drug in a plastic soda bottle."

    Last I checked, making a small batch in a soda bottle is called "shake and bake". It's also the most dangerous and causes a large number of "cooks" to end up in the hospital with some wicked burns.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Jan 9, 12:15 p.m.

    This is good news for the citizens of NC.

    Come on Roy everyone knows it is an election year and you are just trying to get press coverage for your election bid.

    You did your job for once since you have been office, would you like a medal or a chest to pin it on?

    Another stump speech on the taxpayer dime