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New tools escalate NC's battle against meth

Posted October 18, 2011

— North Carolina lawmakers studying new ways to discourage production and use of methamphetamine met Tuesday for the first time.  A House committee heard reports on meth abuse and the means that users have found to circumvent existing laws.

John Emerson, director of the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program in North Carolina, told lawmakers that the number of meth operations in the state dropped dramatically in 2005 after a law went into effect limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine a person could buy and requiring a photo ID for such a purchase. Meth makers use the cold medicine in their mixtures.

In recent years, meth has again begun to boom, Emerson said, as people have found ways around the law.

"We call it ‘smurfing,’” he said. “They go to multiple pharmacies buying pseudoephedrine, and there's no way to keep track as they go from pharmacy to pharmacy. The other way is to use false identification.”

Beginning next year, North Carolina retailers will be required to enter pseudoephedrine customers into a national database. The database will reject the sale if the person has bought more pseudoephedrine than legally allowed, even if it was purchased at different stores or in different states. 

Statewide, 271 labs have been found this year, many in rural areas.

"We're typically seeing about one meth lab a day. So, we anticipate it to be around 300 or over 300 by the end of the year," State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Van Shaw said.

Meth makers have also started using a new method. Instead of meth labs with wires and tubing, makers are putting all of the ingredients into a single container, like an iced tea bottle or 2-liter soda bottle, and shaking it up. The contents are under pressure.

"It's more mobile. It's a little more volatile, and we've seen a number of fires as a result of explosions associated with it," Shaw said.

New law helps battle meth New law helps battle meth

Authorities said the bottles are just as toxic as a full meth lab. Because they are often used in vehicles, the bottles end up being tossed out of the window.

"An organization like the Boy Scouts or some local group decides to help clean up this roadside. They come along, they pick up this bottle (and) they're instantly affected by this incredibly toxic substance,” said committee co-chair Rep. Craig Horn of Union County.

Horn said the state's goal should be to get rid of meth — not just jail people who make it.

If the law to register purchase does not stall the meth spread, Horn said lawmakers could consider making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug again for the first time since 1976. 

34 Comments

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  • wattsun Oct 19, 3:07 p.m.

    Maybe if they would quit wasting time and money putting people away for marijuana they could focus more attention to the hard stuff like Meth, Heroin and Coke that actually causes problems with society.

  • wattsun Oct 19, 3:05 p.m.

    Breaking Bad!

  • Wingnut Central Oct 19, 1:43 p.m.

    I agree with the sentiment that in a free society one ought to be able to purchase and consume any substance that they choose, but in the real world meth addicts are some of the least liberated people I've ever met and the only time they ever exercised free will was the first time they used.

  • golowral Oct 19, 1:25 p.m.

    Total waste of time and money. The so-called "war on drugs" is a joke.

  • bill0 Oct 19, 1:17 p.m.

    Just to state the obvious, but drug companies are making cold meds out of raw ingredients. Even if you manage to restrict the sale of completed cold medicine, how long do you think it will take someone to figure out how to just copy the drug makers formulas?

    You might think addicts are lazy, but they are incredibly industrious when it comes to figuring out how to get their fix.

  • mindcrime Oct 19, 1:06 p.m.

    Free people in a free country should be able to consume whatever substances they want. The problem here isn't pseudoephedrine, methamphetamine, meth labs, or meth users... the problem is the State of North Carolina and the US federal government, and this ill-conceived "war on drugs." A fracking national database for purchases of psuedoephedrine?!? Reatailers mandated to participate? Are you fracking kidding me? How is any of this compatible with the notion of a free country? **sigh**

  • wisabear70 Oct 19, 12:56 p.m.

    Just one more thing we have to go to the Dr to get. Another example of a few messing it up for all of us!!!

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Oct 19, 12:42 p.m.

    Why not make pseudofed a prescription drug?

    Ammonium Nitrate can not be easily purchased anymore because there are people who use it to make bombs.

    It's a worthless decongestant anyway.

  • mentalgoose Oct 19, 12:31 p.m.

    "If the law to register purchase does not stall the meth spread, Horn said lawmakers could consider making pseudoephedrine a prescription drug again for the first time since 1976."

    So, basically, those of us who aren't making meth are going to have to go to the doctor for a script every time a cold or allergy flair up hits?! Brilliant. What a country.

  • cucamelsmd15 Oct 19, 11:34 a.m.

    davidgnews, dextromethamphetamine = methamphetamine, it's not even a "cousin." There is an "R" and "S" form of the meth As you said, the R-form is used for ADHD and the S-form is also in decongestants! carrboroyouth

    Sounds like you need to do a little fact checking there...

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