SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) – Paint thinner, battery acid and drain cleaner are just a few of the highly toxic chemicals used to make meth. When these ingredients are mixed together harmful fumes are released.
“We see children in these homes,” DEA Supervisor Special Agent Toby Schwartz said. “The guardians of these innocent children, they don’t care. They are strung out. They are just making enough meth to get through the day. These labs are combustible. There are a lot of volatile chemicals laying around, glassware, just dangerous items.
In 2009, there were 692 meth labs reported across the state, according to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN). Of those, 349 were active labs, not only putting the makers and their families in danger, but also the community.
To combat the dangerous problem, Mississippi joined Oregon in passing a law requiring a prescription for the main ingredient pseudoephedrine. The results have been dramatic. According to MBN, there has been a 98 percent decrease in meth labs.
“It was a very helpful law, just unfortunately drugs are an addiction, and you take away one source from an addict. They are going to find another avenue to get it,” Schwartz said.
Some are still making meth. This year, MBN reports 21 labs statewide, two of those are still active or in use. The majority of the labs busted have been discovered in South Mississippi.
“We definitely see a lot of people going across state lines,” Hancock County Narcotics Director Jeremy Skinner said. “Especially being a county that boarders Louisiana, where it’s so readily available. And Louisiana doesn’t have any real regulations on pseudoephedrine.”
Skinner said his department keeps a close eye on pseudoephedrine sales in Louisiana by customers from Mississippi. But the even bigger trend when it comes to meth in Mississippi is imported meth.
“We have seen a big influx in meth from other parts of the country or Mexico, and a lot of meth is in ice form,” Skinner said.”
“Mexican meth is coming in by the pounds right now,” Schwartz said. “It’s more dangerous, it’s more potent, it’s more addictive. It gives former users of meth a greater high and a stronger addiction.”
Schwartz said meth confiscated from homemade labs tests around 20 percent pure meth, while the imported meth is showing results of anywhere from 97 to 99 percent pure meth.
This imported meth is dangerous for the user, but again like meth labs, imported meth also presents a hazard for the community.
“It does if the drug cartel members show up,” Schwartz said. “Fortunately, they are in transit when they are in our area. The DEA, along with state and locals, have done a good job of keeping them out. We have caught them in transit, but they are setting up shop in rural parts of Mississippi.”
As the war on meth continues to evolve, law enforcement agencies and lawmakers must continue to work together to try and get a step ahead of the problem.
According to DEA agents, meth users usually use abut a gram of meth at a time. Imported meth is selling on the streets of South Mississippi for around $120 to $150 a gram. This, agents said, can also present other dangers such as meth users having to commit crimes to pay for their habit.