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An Iowa City man faces multiple charges after police allegedly found materials used to create methamphetamine in his home.

According to Johnson County criminal complaints, a State of Iowa narcotics search warrant was executed Feb. 5 at the Mosswood Lane residence of 32-year-old Gus D. Ollinger. During the search, officers allegedly located numerous packages of lithium batteries and lithium strip fragments inside a container that also contained methamphetamine and pseudoephedrine.

Gus D. Ollinger

Gus D. Ollinger



The complaint states that officers also located numerous pills containing pseudoephedrine, a grinder with crushed pseudoephedrine powder and a container with sludge containing pseudoephedrine. Other items seized included marijuana, multiple pipes, bongs with residue, numerous unidentified prescription pills, syringes, digital scales and precursors used to manufacture methamphetamine, according to police.

On July 29, lab results from the Division of Criminal Investigation came back and showed items to contain in excess of five grams of methamphetamine, according to complaints. Lab results also came back positive for marijuana.

Ollinger’s charges include: Possession of a controlled substance, a serious misdemeanor; possession of controlled substance keep or permit use in a structure, an aggravated misdemeanor; possession of pseudoephedrine, a felony; controlled substance violation, a felony; possession of lithium, a felony.

Ollinger has been released from the Johnson County jail.



Methamphetamine and its precursor drugs worth up to $1 billion has been stopped at the New Zealand border since 2009.

Sixty-six kilograms of methamphetamine and 3.3 tonnes of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine has been intercepted through the International Mail Centre, sea cargo and air cargo shipments, and from individuals entering the country, Customs Minister Maurice Williamson said today.

Methamphetamine (Source: ONE News)


The street value of the drugs is between $740 million and $1 billion while the drug harm prevented is calculated to be $410 million, Mr Williamson said.

“I applaud Customs for stopping so much of this vile drug entering the country,” he said.

“Targeted operational activity has proven successful in disrupting criminal supply chains.”

The Government has focussed on attacking the supply, manufacture and consumption of methamphetamine because of its prevalence in the illicit drug market, the Minister said.

In 2009, the Methamphetamine Action Plan was released with the goal of significantly reducing methamphetamine use and its associated harm.

Methamphetamine use has dropped from 2.2% in 2007/8 to 0.9% in late 2012, he said.

In 2010, he signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with China, which is the country’s primary source of methamphetamine precursors.

“Both Customs administrations have worked to stem the import of precursors from China, including sharing information and intelligence.

“Close work with other customs administrations results in a better understanding of illicit drug supply and presents the opportunity to disrupt the supply chain from the export end.”

Customs continues to work closely with police to identify and dismantle the New Zealand end of smuggling operations, Mr Williamson said.

The Integrated Targeting and Operations Centre also opened in 2011. It assesses threats and targets risks to the border more efficiently.

While evidence suggests the methamphetamine market is smaller now than it was a few years ago, the high price of the drug continues to make New Zealand a target for overseas drug syndicates, Mr Williamson said.

“It’s imperative we remain vigilant and respond to any emerging trends,” he said.

Drug harm is defined as the total social costs from harmful drug use. It includes crime, lost output, health service use and other diverted resources, such as Customs and police time.




MILFORD, Del. — Delaware State Police say a Dover man was found driving a car with a mobile methamphetamine lab inside.

A trooper stopped the man in Milford on Monday after hearing about the lab in the Ford Escort. When the trooper asked the driver, 33-year-old Frank Sheridan of Dover, if there was anything illegal in the car, police say Sheridan replied that there were two bottles in the car actively cooking meth.

Police say detectives found two “one pot” bottles cooking in the car with components and key ingredients in making the drug.

Sheridan is charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and local firefighters helped dismantle the lab and clean up the waste.




IDAHO FALLS — Craig Berry, 54, of Ammon, was arrested Monday and charged with possession of methamphetamines and driving without privileges.

Idaho Falls Police Department officials indicated they were following up on a complaint regarding possible drug activity at a residence in the 100 block of East 15th Street around 8:30 p.m. when Berry arrived at the residence.

While being placed under arrest for driving without privileges, police say Berry was found to be in possession of .85 grams of methamphetamines.

Berry was taken to the Bonneville County Jail.



A preliminary hearing for an Arkansas City man charged with multiple offenses, including rape and possession of methamphetamine, has been scheduled for later this month.

That hearing for Richard Norman Smyer, 32, was set during a preliminary-setting hearing Monday in Cowley County District Court in Arkansas City. 

The preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Aug. 22 in the Ark City courtroom.

Smyer appeared with his attorney, Clayton Soule, who asked Judge Jim Pringle to reduce his client’s bond.

Smyer has an Ark City residence and has the charge of minor children, Soule told the judge.

At Monday afternoon’s hearing, Pringle reduced Smyer’s bond from $15,000 to $5,000. Smyer still was being held Monday at the Cowley County Jail.

His bond had been set at $24,250 when he was booked into jail last month, but it later was reduced to $15,000, said Larry Schwartz, deputy county attorney.

Smyer was arrested July 14 on rape, theft and drug charges after two alleged altercations, according to the Arkansas City Police Department.

In the previous incident, he was charged with domestic battery.

In the July 14 incident, he was charged with rape, a level-1 person felony; possession of methamphetamine, a drug level-5 felony; and possession of drug paraphernalia and theft, both class-A nonperson misdemeanors.

Pringle said he would schedule a trial on the domestic battery case, a misdemeanor, immediately after conducting the preliminary hearing on the felony case.

On July 14, police were dispatched to the 400 block of North C Street for a reported disturbance, according to police.

After officers arrived at the house, Smyer told them he had been in a “minor altercation” with his “former significant other,” with whom he has children, police said in a press release.

A woman told police she had asked to spend the night at Smyer’s residence and that they had a “brief verbal altercation” about a debt he owed to her, police said.

She reported that she fell asleep at the house and, after she woke up, she found that she was missing money and thought that she had been drugged, and possibly assaulted sexually, according to the release.




A McArthur woman is facing multiple drug-related charges after a traffic stop earlier this month allegedly revealed chemicals used in the making of meth.

Alisha Blanton, 37, of McArthur, was stopped for a minor traffic violation when a McArthur police officer requested to search her vehicle, which she allegedly consented to.

Multiple items of drug paraphernalia were said to be found, including those used to illegally manufacture meth, according to a McArthur police report.

The report also states that Blanton had allegedly been illegally requesting others to purchase pseudoephedrine-based medication from area pharmacies. The drug is normally used as a decongestant.

The Vinton County Prosecutor’s office recommended charges of possession of illegal chemicals for manufacture of meth, a felony, as well as unlawful purchase of pseudoephedrine and illegal drug paraphernalia, both misdemeanors.

Other charges are reportedly pending the results of laboratory testing.




CURRYVILLE, MO.Investigators found materials used to make methamphetamine near the source of an explosion that destroyed a Pike County, Mo. home and set a man to a burn unit.

The explosion happened shortly after 5:30 a.m. Aug. 7 at 308 W. Maple St. in Curryville, Mo.


The explosion happened shortly after 5:30 a.m. Aug. 7 at 308 W. Maple St. in Curryville, Mo.



Joe Moss was taken from the scene to University Hospital in Columbia. He was transferred to a burn unit in the St. Louis area. Samantha Wilson was also at the home She was taken to Pike County Hospital. She was treated and released.

A report released Monday says that fire investigators uncovered numerous items that point to a clandestine meth lab.

“Witnesses report hearing three separate explosions coming from the house,” according to a statement from Pike County Sheriff Stephen Korte. “One of these explosions is attributed to a small propane taken that was located near the source of the fire. The tank was ruptured in a manor consistent with an explosion.”

No arrests were made as of Monday as the investigation continues.




Jacksonville Police made three arrests during two alleged meth busts: at a hotel Saturday and an apartment complex Sunday, officials said.

Late Saturday, Jacksonville Police officers and narcotics detectives responded to reports of possible drug “activity” on the third floor of a hotel on Commerce Drive, according to a Jacksonville Police Department press release.

“The investigation revealed that the occupants were manufacturing and using methamphetamines in the hotel room,” according to the press release.


Christopher Tadlock, 40, of Connelly Springs was arrested and charged with one count manufacturing meth, possession of meth and conspiracy. Tadlock was one of two suspects arrested in connection with that alleged meth lab



“Because of the health hazards associated with the chemicals used in manufacturing methamphetamines, the hotel was evacuated and the suspects and first responders were decontaminated by Jacksonville fire personnel at the scene.” stated Spencer Lee, deputy chief of fire operations, in the press release. “In accordance with local and state requirements for responding to incidents involving hazardous materials, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations was called to assist in the investigation.”

Onslow County Sheriff’s Office assisted the investigation.

Christopher Tadlock, 40, of Connelly Springs and Brandy Wells, 24, of Hubert were arrested and charged each with manufacturing meth, possession of meth and conspiracy.

About 4 p.m. Sunday, Jacksonville Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at a multi-unit dwelling at 215 Williamsburg Plantation Boulevard.

Firefighters found a first floor unit was filled with smoke but no fire, according to the press release.

“First responders observed suspicious items located within the residence,” according to the press release. “The investigation confirmed that the residence was being used as an active meth lab.”

The apartment building was evacuated and first responders and the suspect were decontaminated by fired department members.

State Bureau of Investigation agents assisted in the response.

John Anthony Scott, 51, of the residence was arrested and charged with manufacturing meth and was held on $100,000 secured bond at the Onslow County Jail, according to the press release.




Breaking Bad has given people across the globe an “interesting” introduction to Albuquerque.

Some wonder, is meth a big problem in our city?

The truth is meth is a drug easily found in this city, and in many other cities.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 sat down with recovering addicts for a real look at the impact of the drug at the center of “Breaking Bad.”

For five seasons we have been captivated by two characters.

Those characters are family man and drug kingpin Walter White, and junkie turned right hand man Jessie Pinkman.

We have watched them evolve and followed them into a dark underworld.

On the show that world is Albuquerque and in real life Albuquerque is home to some similar characters.

The Duke City has real life drug dealers, drug makers, and drug addicts battling the real effects of methamphetamine.

“I don’t know, it just grabbed me,” said a recovering addict who only wanted to go by “Danny.” “It just made sense, I don’t know how else to explain it, it was powerful.”

“The first time I smoked it the clouds parted, and I felt like I could get stuff done,” said a recovering female addict who did not want to be named.

Meth is a stimulant, users describe the high as euphoric, but it never lasts.

The effects of meth can be ugly and are well depicted in the show.

“The dirtiness of some of the characters, like not bathing, that stuff is definitely real, it’s definitely what happens in that lifestyle,” said former addict Jeffrey Holland.

Breaking Bad has explored that side of meth, but the show has mostly focused on the drug trade, which is a side that is also alive and well in Albuquerque.

Danny, who has been in recovery for two years, is on probation for trafficking meth.

“I was selling probably a couple pounds a week. I was making, probably $7 or 8 thousand dollars a week,” said Danny.

It seemed like a perfect way to get his meth and to pay his bills.

Kind of like how Walter White thought, he would just make a little extra money for his family.

“What’s real accurate to real life is how it escalates, how when he first got into it he was just trying to help his family because he thought he was going to die, and it escalated from that,” Danny said.

He relates to Walter’s story in that respect and the loss of control, which is a universal experience for drug addicts.

“You don’t deviate from the end game too much when you’re living the life of an addict,” said Holland.

Holland now runs the Endorphin Power Company recovery center in Albuquerque.

He knows the path addicts walk down, is not one they all come back from.

The female former addict did not make it on the first try.

“I went to an extremely expensive treatment center out of state and I did not stay clean,” she said. “It’s amazing how it can really change you to a different person you know.”

For five years we have watched Walter White’s transformation into a different person

We now wonder, with just a few episodes left, how true to life his end will be.

Will it be prison or death?

Those two options seem the most likely for the character.

In real life though, there is some hope for those who make it out of that dark underworld.

“It is possible, anything is possible,” said the woman.

“They say it takes some time to heal from it, and i don’t know if you can ever heal 100 percent, but I definitely feel a whole lot better than I used to,” Danny said.



A drug-dealing New Plymouth addict with a violent temper has been jailed for more than three years.

Tommy Kawhuru White, 53, was yesterday sentenced in the New Plymouth District Court for his part in a $40,000 drug deal after five Aucklanders dropped off 85 grams of methamphetamine to his Fitzroy home.

The group were caught by the New Plymouth armed offenders squad as they headed back to Auckland in their Jaguar, a loaded revolver stashed under a seat.

A jury last month found the five involved guilty of supplying methamphetamine to White.

They are yet to be sentenced.

White had earlier admitted possessing more than 30g of methamphetamine for supply, conspiring to deal methamphetamine, assaulting a man involved in the burglary of his house with an iron bar, assaulting the same man with intent, wilful damage, and attempting to pervert the course of justice when he told a witness to his offending not to turn up at court.

White’s lawyer, Paul Keegan, said his client was genuine in breaking with criminal associates and reforming himself.

He had undertaken counselling and had strong support from his family. White had spent seven months on bail without incident.

Crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich asked for an order forfeiting the $9715 found during a search of White’s house. Judge Allan Roberts said White was on bail when charged with the methamphetamine offences.

In an unrelated matter, White had attacked a young man he believed was involved in a burglary of his house.

His victim had grabbed the bar and White had then stabbed him with a screwdriver and bit him.

The bite became infected and the victim ended up in hospital.

The premeditated attack was in broad daylight and involved the use of a weapon in a vigilante action, the judge said. White’s pre-sentence report noted he wanted to get rid of his drug dependency.

His meth use had been raised as a trigger for his violence.

At 53 years of age, White, who had a propensity for violence, should be slowing up, the judge said, and sentenced him to 39 months in jail.



LUCERNE — A police chase that began in an empty parking lot Friday afternoon ended with the arrest of a man who was allegedly in possession of an ounce of methamphetamine and $1,400 in cash.

Narcotics officers with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) approached Timothy Todd Ryden, 47, who was sitting in a light blue BMW parked in an empty parking lot at 1:10 p.m., LCSO Lt. Steve Brooks stated in a press release Monday. Detectives had received information of a vehicle matching the BMW’s description that had been involved in drug sales.

When sheriff’s officers approached the vehicle, Ryden allegedly sped off and led police on a chase travelling east on Country Club Drive in speeds exceeding 60 mph in a 25 mph zone. Brooks also stated that Ryden ran several stop signs during the chase.

The detectives lost Ryden for a while, but later located him in front of a residence in the 6000 block of First Avenue in Lucerne as he was trying to cover the car with a tarp, Brooks stated. Ryden tried to run away but was apprehended shortly after. Detectives allegedly found the bag containing the methamphetamine near Ryden at the time of the arrest and located the $1,400 in the driver-side door pocket.

Ryden was charged with evading a peace officer with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of people and property, possession of a controlled substance for sale, resisting arrest and being an unlicensed driver, Brooks stated. His felony probation was also violated.



Approximately 200 Amish residents in Trumbull County gathered at the Mesopotamia fire station Monday evening for an open forum to discuss drug issues relating to heroin and methamphetamine.

The meeting was called at the request of bishops within the Amish community, who reached out to police for help. Our station was asked not to show video from inside the meeting, but two police officers and a member the Trumbull Ashtabula Group drug task force spoke, and went over meth and heroin awareness tips.

Police also addressed vandalism and underage drinking, saying there has been a rise in large parties where Amish kids are drinking, but police can’t do anything about it if no one speaks up. They urged the community to “help us help you.”

“To this point, the Amish generally don’t like to report things. They like to take care of it in their own church. What we’re trying to do is get cooperation so we can help them and aid them in correcting some of these problems,” said Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department Maj. Harold Firster.

Police also stressed that the Amish community can help keep drugs out of the county by being the eyes and ears of rural areas. The general message given was “if it looks suspicious, call and report it.”

But police said there is a very big concern over retaliation. Many Amish are fearful that should they speak up, there would be repercussions of some sort, similar to the beard cutting incidents that had taken place several years ago.

Police said all they need is an anonymous tip, and stressed that if they don’t know about the issues, there is nothing they can do to help.



After the largest drug seizer in Douglas County history, local drug use has raised many questions.
Lawrence Drug Counselor Clay Walters has seen many clients addicted to methamphetamines come through the doors of Professional Treatment Services. He said it can be very addictive compared to other drugs.

 “It takes people down very fast. From the standpoint of addiction, methamphetamine can cause that process to happen extremely quickly compared to some of the other drugs,” said Walters.

Last week Lawrence Police officers and Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies announced the largest drug seizure in Douglas County history. Officials said 25 pounds of meth, worth about $1 million if sold on the street, was seized along with money, cocaine, other drugs and a 9 millimeter handgun.
Although no suspects were named, officials said Mexican drug cartels are believed to be involved.
Walters said he has seen a change in the way that meth is sold. He said that the smaller, local meth labs have been replaced by the meth manufactured by the Mexican drug cartels.

“The greater the availability of the drug, the more use you are going to see and the more problems that are going to happen,” said Walters.Jen Jordan with Draw the Line and DCCCA is an advocate against underage drinking and drug use. She said a survey of local high school students showed that 29 percent of sophomores reported they had bought, sold, or had been given drugs at least once in the past year. Jordan said she gave a talk to Haskell students about meth use.

“The drug cartels are bringing methamphetamine into the reservations and then we’re getting kids that are coming to school here that maybe have a problem themselves or have had family members that have had a problem with meth,” said Jordan.

She said that meth use by teens and college students has been fairly steady but an increase in the availability could eventually to more drug use by younger people.

In recent years, China has done well from its booming economy – but there’s been a downside. Easy money and a growing social acceptance of drug taking has fuelled a big market for drug dealers. Neighbouring Myanmar is one country that’s increased its production and smuggling of drugs, particularly methamphetamine – or ice – in response to growing demand in China.

In recent years China has done well from its booming economy, but there’s been a downside. Easy money and a growing social acceptance of drug-taking has fuelled a big market for drug dealers.

And as China correspondent Stephen McDonell discovered, one of China’s neighbours is heavily involved in the drug trade.

 The 4,000 kilometre border running between China and Myanmar is remote and porous. We travelled to the region for tonight’s Foreign Correspondent and watch as poor Burmese farmers sneak into China.

Many are looking for work, but others are drug couriers. For a couple of hundred dollars they’re smuggling in heroin, ketamine and other narcotics from a newly stable Myanmar.

Yet Chinese police tell us that the really big increase they’re seeing is in the importation of methamphetamine, also known on China’s streets as ice.

Former police officer Wu Jiang is now at Yunnan University as a leading authority on drug crime in China. He says last year Yunnan police seized nine tonnes of ice coming out of Myanmar – 26 per cent more than the year before.

(Wu Jiang speaking Chinese)

“The factories which produce drugs have increased,” he tells us. “In other words they once produced heroin but now they’ve changed to produce ice-type drugs, amphetamine-type drugs.”

I ask him if Myanmar’s increased ice production is in direct response to Chinese consumption.

(Wu Jiang speaking Chinese)

“That’s correct. It’s because of supply and demand,” he says. “The key point is they must know there are so many people in China who are selling drugs, they’ve established networks with them.”

In the bustling border town of Ruili, we watch drug deals going down in the street and we’re told that increasingly, it’s ice being bought.

(Man speaking Chinese)

We meet a young man who doesn’t want to be named but tells us that the local street dealers have been getting busier by the week. He estimates that the number of drug users in this town has doubled in recent times.

(Wu Jiang speaking Chinese)

Wu Jiang tells us that drug taking in China is becoming much more socially acceptable in certain circles. He says that ice, for example, is bound up in a drug smoking subculture as well as being easy to buy and inexpensive.

(Sound of traffic)

And while Burmese-made methamphetamine is cheap in Yunnan, its price doubles and triples as it hits the big Chinese cities.

But the real profits are to be made if the syndicates can get these drugs to places like Australia and we’re told that that’s exactly where more and more of them are heading.



STATENVILLE, GA (WALB) – Echols County Sheriff Randy Courson says that his office broke up a rolling meth lab resulting from a traffic stop late Friday night. Christopher Carroll, 34 and his wife Katherine Carroll, 29 of Valdosta were stopped after the sheriff noticed Mrs. Carroll driving erratically on J. Frank Culpepper Rd.

Courson said that he saw an object being thrown out of the passenger side of the vehicle, and when he did get the vehicle stopped, he noticed a strong smell of methamphetamine coming from the mini van.


The sheriff says he found a one-pot methamphetamine lab also known as a “shake and bake” lab, in the back of the vehicle.

Deputies also found a cooler containing all of the remaining elements needed in the manufacturing process, and the couple was actually cooking meth as they were driving down the road.

The couple was taken into custody where a syringe was removed from the passenger, which contained suspected methamphetamine.

Narcotics agents from the Lowndes County Sheriffs Office assisted deputies of Echols County Sheriff’s Office in dismantling the lab. A hazardous material company was contacted to come obtain and transport the lab, and the van was towed from the scene.

Katherine Carroll was charged with misdemeanor failure to maintain lane, felony possession of methamphetamine, felony manufacture of methamphetamine, and felony possession of tools used in the commission of a crime.

Christopher Carroll was charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, felony manufacture of methamphetamine and felony possession of tools used in the commission of a crime.



On the night of Saturday, Aug. 10, Jacksonville patrol officers and narcotics detectives responded to a report of drug activity on the third floor of My Motel at 2411 Commerce Drive, investigators said. When the officers arrived, they discovered that the occupants were making and using meth in the hotel room, according to police.

The motel was then evacuated because of the dangerous chemicals, said Spencer Lee, deputy chief of fire operations.

Christopher Allen Tadlock (left), 40, of Connelly Spring, and Brandy Marie Wells (middle), 24, of Hubert, were arrested at My Motel, police said. Both suspects have been charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, and felony conspiracy. Tadlock and Wells were being held at the Onslow County Jail under $100,000 and $105,000 secured bonds respectively.

Police said they made another meth arrest in a separate incident on Sunday, Aug. 11.

At about 4 p.m., the Jacksonville Fire Department responded to a report of a residential blaze at a multi-unit dwelling at 215 Williamsburg Plantation Boulevard, police said.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found a first floor unit filled with smoke, said investigators. But there was no fire, and first responders saw suspicious items in the home. Police said they soon learned that the building was being used as a meth lab.

The apartment building was evacuated and the suspect, 51-year-old John Anthony Scott (right), was arrested, police said. He has been charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and was being held under a $100,000 secured bond at the Onslow County Jail.



.On July 31, 2013, deputies with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle on Davis Drive in DeFuniak Springs. The driver, Ronnie D Wilson Jr, 37, of Glendale, FL was arrested when deputies located methamphetamine in his vehicle.The Walton County Sheriff’s Office Vice/Narcotics investigators responded to the scene and learned that Wilson was manufacturing methamphetamine in a camper located at 62 Magnolia Street. The information obtained gave investigators probable cause and a search warrant was issued. During a search of the residence, investigators located items used in the “Shake and Bake” method of manufacturing methamphetamines. Investigators also located methamphetamine, digital scales and paraphernalia used to ingest methamphetamines.

Ronnie Wilson was charged with Manufacturing Methamphetamine (3rd Degree Felony), Possession of Methamphetamine (3rd Degree Felony) and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (1st Degree Misdemeanor). Wilson was booked at the Walton County Jail.



A plastic 2-liter soda bottle isn’t usually frightening.

But mix some noxious chemicals inside one and it can be. Find the right combination and you have a fully functioning methamphetamine lab.

It’s called the one-pot method. It’s cheap, portable and a potentially deadly way of making meth. And, it’s found a home in the Lansing region, partly because the inexpensive drug is popular in economically depressed areas.

Eaton County had the seventh-highest number of reported arrests, busts and explosions — known as meth-related incidents — in 2012 throughout Michigan, according to statistics from the Michigan State Police. Numbers are rising across the region. Through July, Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties have had 23 incidents, setting a pace for 46 this year. That would be up from 38 last year, and 26 in 2010.


Officials don’t see that trend subsiding anytime soon. They say low manufacturing costs and large profits for dealers make the drug too attractive to give up on.


But meth’s grip on Michigan is devastating for users, puts law enforcement and others who come into contact with it in danger and is challenging communities faced with cleanup costs.

“It is the most addictive drug we’re seeing out there,” said Eaton County Circuit Court Judge Harvey Hoffman, who runs the county’s drug court. “More than cocaine or even heroin. We look at it as a dangerous situation.”

Making meth typically involves a mix of lighter fluid, Drano, lithium, red phosphorus obtained from matchbooks, hydrochloric acid and ephedrine. It’s a $100 to $200 venture.

“There is a large profit in it,” said Dr. Jack Jesse, a counselor and division director of Eaton Behavioral Health in Charlotte. “You could take $100 (the cost of making a few grams of meth) and turn it into to $1,000 in meth and then take that and turn it into $10,000. It is a pretty lucrative thing in terms of making money.”

Marijuana, depending upon the amount purchased and quality, sells from as little as $120 an ounce to about as much as $4,000 a pound, according to Det. 1st Lt. Tim Gill of the Michigan State Police. Cocaine can cost up to a $1,000 an ounce or $30,000 for a kilo, which is 2.2 pounds.

And, meth has far-reaching consequences in the areas it’s prevalent.

“Sometimes… (meth labs) just blow up,” said Gill. “And when it does, these people end up dying or they go to the burn unit at the University of Michigan.”

An Associated Press survey in January 2010 of burn units in the most active meth states showed one-third of patients in some burn units were hurt while making meth. Most were uninsured.

Average treatment costs came to $6,000 per day. The average meth patient’s hospital stay costs $130,000 — 60 percent more than other burn patients, according to a study done by Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.

Rising hospital costs are only part of the problem.

Red phosphorus can cause eye, skin and stomach irritation, according to a study from the Michigan Department of Community Health. Those repeatedly exposed — whether it’s the drugmaker or the people who happen to be in the place it’s being produced — may end up suffering from anemia, kidney and liver damage, blood disorders and cardiovascular effects, the study said.

Sgt. Chris Crawford of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department said his agency has received telephone calls from schools regarding children smelling like chemicals. In several instances, investigations showed they were living in or were otherwise exposed to meth labs.

In Charlotte, four months after a suspected meth lab explosion at a downtown building, the damaged exterior is still visible because the owner has not made repairs.

The March 1 explosion in the 100 block of East Lawrence Ave. — across the street from the police department on one of the city’s busiest streets — severely damaged a wall on the west side of the structure and left the two-story building vacant, Charlotte City Manager Gregg Guetschow said.

Police have said a tenant living on the building’s second floor had been cooking meth in the apartment before the explosion. The size of the operation was small: a glass bottle, some aluminum foil and a heating source.

The tenant, 31-year-old Derek Ayers spent weeks in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained the blast, and has since pleaded guilty to two charges of operating a meth lab. City officials are still negotiating with the building’s owner, Bruce Fox, who they say hasn’t made any repairs at the property. Ultimately, if the Fox doesn’t address the issues, the city may have to choose between making the repairs itself or demolishing the building, Guetschow said. Fox could not be reached for comment.

Sgt. Robert Ott of the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office heads a team that specializes in meth. He has advised officers who come upon a meth lab to call in his team rather than risk hazardous chemical exposure, or contact with paranoid users or the increasing likelihood that meth users have weapons.

Meth offers users a cheap, short-term high that is eventually offset by the reality of the expensive, long-lasting effects the drug can have on the body — paranoia, rotting teeth, loss of sexual drive, depleted emotional functions, curbed appetite and hollow-looking eyes.

“When people use something like meth, it uses up a lot of dopamine and it ups the dopamine intake system,” said Jesse, a counselor and division director of Eaton Behavioral Health in Charlotte “They are depleted of the feel-good chemical in their brains. It is why they keep seeking it — because they do not have the ability to naturally produce it.”

Jesse said CT scans have shown it can take 12-18 months before the brain can heal from that kind of damage. That’s why it is important to keep a recovering addict in treatment for an extended amount of time.

In Hoffman’s experience, meth is indiscriminate. Men and women are equally likely to use it, with some women turning to meth as a weight loss drug. And, meth knows no age barrier.

Jesse said he once counseled a ninth-grade girl who was using meth. She and two of her eighth-grade friends made and used two batches. Crawford said college students have been known to use it to stay awake to study for mid-term and final exams.

Meth is so controlling, other drugs are often needed to help level a person out.

“The use of marijuana comes up a lot with most meth users,” said Scott Achenbach, program director for the Alcohol Drug Education Program in Charlotte. “They need it to sleep, calm down and eat. They’ll use it to function.”

Other debilitating effects include what’s known as “crank bugs” — the chemicals from meth trying to seep out of the skin, creating large, irritating bumps. Most of these marks can be found on the arm.

Crawford said the itch can be so great, it once led to a woman scratching off her skin until she reached the bone in her forearm.

Tim Mulcahy, a principal research scientist on the subjects of economics, labor and population studies for the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, recently completed a four-year meth study surveying 1,300 police departments across the nation. The study showed meth use has evolved from a west coast-specific issue to being a nationwide issue. He said meth use is driven in part by the strength of the drug market and how appealing it is compared to other drugs readily available in the market.

Mulcahy said Michigan is in for a long fight against the drug.

“The obvious thing to point out is there is not any decrease of one-pot methods,” he said. “I am confident the Midwest is in trouble for a good long time because of one-pot.”

But battling meth is not necessarily a lost cause.

Achenbach said criminal and legal intervention is becoming the method people are using to overcome addiction problems. But addressing the problem goes deeper.

“If you want to fix the problem, you have to educate the masses,” he said. “It has to be done beyond where we are at now. It needs to be early, consistent and lengthy.”




With big profits on the line, the drug industry is pulling out campaign-style dirty tricks to keep selling the meds that cooks turn into crank.

The first time she saw her mother passed out on the living room floor, Amanda thought she was dead. There were muddy tracks on the carpet and the room looked like it had been ransacked. Mary wouldn’t wake up. When she finally came to, she insisted nothing was wrong. But as the weeks passed, her 15-year-old daughter’s sense of foreboding grew. Amanda’s parents stopped sleeping and eating. Her once heavy mother turned gaunt and her father, Barry, stopped going to work. She was embarrassed to go into town with him; he was covered in open sores. A musty stink gripped their increasingly chaotic trailer. The driveway filled up with cars as strangers came to the house and partied all night.

meth lab cleanup

State troopers clean up a meth lab found on school board property about a block from a London, Kentucky, elementary school.



Her parents’ repeated assurances failed to assuage Amanda’s mounting worry. She would later tell her mother it felt “like I saw an airplane coming in toward our house in slow motion and it was crashing.” Finally, she went sleuthing online. The empty packages of cold medicine, the canisters of Coleman fuel, the smell, her parents’ strange behavior all pointed to one thing. They were meth cooks. Amanda (last name withheld to protect her privacy) told her grandparents, who lived next door. Eventually, they called police.

 Within minutes, agents burst into the trailer. They slammed Barry up against the wall, put a gun to his head, and hauled him and Mary off in handcuffs. It would be two and a half years before Amanda and her 10-year-old sister, Chrissie, would see their father again.

The year was 2005, and what happened to Amanda’s family was the result of a revolution in methamphetamine production that was just beginning to make its way into Kentucky. Meth users called it the “shake- and-bake” or “one-pot” method, and its key feature was to greatly simplify the way meth is synthesized from pseudoephedrine, a decongestant found in cold and allergy medicines like Claritin D and Sudafed.

Cops are waging two battles: one against meth cooks, the other against wealthy, politically connected drug manufacturers.

Shake and bake did two things. It took a toxic and volatile process that had once been the province of people with Breaking Bad-style knowledge of chemistry and put it in the bedrooms and kitchens of meth users in rural America. It also produced the most potent methamphetamine anywhere.

If anyone wondered what would happen if heroin or cocaine addicts suddenly discovered how to make their own supply with a handful of cheap ingredients readily available over the counter, methamphetamine’s recent history provides an answer. Since 2007, the number of clandestine meth sites discovered by police has increased 63 percent nationwide. In Kentucky, the number of labs has more than tripled. The Bluegrass State regularly joins its neighbors Missouri, Tennessee, and Indiana as the top four states for annual meth lab discoveries.

As law enforcement agencies scramble to clean up and dispose of toxic labs, prosecute cooks, and find foster homes for their children, they are waging two battles: one against destitute, strung-out addicts, the other against some of the world’s wealthiest and most politically connected drug manufacturers. In the past several years, lawmakers in 25 states have sought to make pseudoephedrine—the one irreplaceable ingredient in a shake-and-bake lab—a prescription drug. In all but two—Oregon and Mississippi—they have failed as the industry, which sells an estimated $605 million worth of pseudoephedrine-based drugs a year, has deployed all-star lobbying teams and campaign-trail tactics such as robocalls and advertising blitzes.

Perhaps nowhere has the battle been harder fought than in Kentucky, where Big Pharma’s trade group has broken lobbying spending records in 2010 and 2012, beating back cops, doctors, teachers, drug experts, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. “It frustrates me to see how an industry and corporate dollars affect commonsense legislation,” says Jackie Steele, a commonwealth’s attorney whose district in southeastern Kentucky has been overwhelmed by meth labs in recent years.


Before it migrated east to struggling Midwestern farm towns and the hollers of Appalachia, methamphetamine was a West Coast drug, produced by cooks working for Mexican drug-trafficking organizations and distributed by biker gangs. Oregon was particularly hard hit, with meth labs growing ninefold from 1995 to 2001. Even then, before shake and bake, police had their hands full decontaminating toxic labs that were often set up in private homes. Social workers warned of an epidemic of child abuse and neglect as hundreds of kids were being removed from meth houses.

In despair, the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association turned to Rob Bovett. As the lawyer for the drug task force of Lincoln County—a strip of the state’s central coast known for its fishing industry, paper mills, and beaches—he was all too aware of the scourge of meth labs. Having worked for the Oregon Legislature and lobbied on behalf of the State Sheriffs’ Association, he also knew his way around Capitol procedure.

Bovett knew that law enforcement couldn’t arrest its way out of the meth lab problem. They needed to choke off the cooks’ supply lines.

Bovett first approached the Legislature about regulating pseudoephedrine in 2000. “The legislative response was to stick me in a room with a dozen pharmaceutical lobbyists to work it out,” he recalls. He suggested putting the drugs behind the counter (without requiring a prescription) to discourage mass buying, but the lobbyists refused. They did eventually agree to a limit on the amount of pseudoephedrine any one person could buy, but the number of meth labs remained high, so in 2003 Bovett tried once again to get pseudoephedrine moved behind the counter. “We got our asses kicked,” he admits.

Then, in Oklahoma, state trooper Nikky Joe Green came upon a meth lab in the trunk of a car. The cook overpowered Green and shot him with his own gun. The murder, recorded on the patrol car’s camera, galvanized the state’s Legislature into placing pseudoephedrine behind the counter and limiting sales in 2004.

 The pharmaceutical industry fought the bill, saying it was unlikely to curb meth labs. But Oklahoma saw an immediate drop in the number of labs its officers busted, and Oregon followed suit later that year.

But the meth cooks soon came up with a work-around: They organized groups of people to make the rounds of pharmacies, each buying the maximum amount allowed—a practice known as smurfing. How to stop these sales? Bovett remembered that until 1976, pseudoephedrine had been a prescription drug. He asked lawmakers to return it to that status.

Pharma companies and big retailers “flooded our Capitol building with lobbyists from out of state,” he says. On the eve of the House vote, with the count too close to call, four legislators went out and bought 22 boxes of Sudafed and Tylenol Cold. They brought their loot back to the Legislature, where Bovett walked lawmakers through the process of turning the medicine into meth with a handful of household products. Without exceeding the legal sales limit, they had all the ingredients needed to make about 180 hits. The bill passed overwhelmingly.

Industry’s motto has been “stop meth, not meds.” One lawmaker likens it to the NRA’s “plea to people who own weapons that they are coming for your guns.”

Since the bill became law in 2006, the number of meth labs found in Oregon has fallen 96 percent. Children are no longer being pulled from homes with meth labs, and police officers have been freed up to pursue leads instead of cleaning up labs and chasing smurfers. In 2008, Oregon experienced the largest drop in violent-crime rates in the country. By 2009, property crime rates fell to their lowest in 43 years. That year, overall crime in Oregon reached a 40-year low. The state’s Criminal Justice Commission credited the pseudoephedrine prescription bill, along with declining meth use, as key factors.

For Big Pharma, however, Oregon’s measure was a major defeat—and the industry was not about to let it happen again. “They’ve learned from their mistakes in Oregon, they’ve learned from their mistakes in Mississippi,” says Marshall Fisher, who runs the Bureau of Narcotics in Mississippi. “They know if another state falls, and has the results that we’ve had, the chances of national legislation are that much closer. Every year they can fight this off is another year of those profits.”

On a sunny winter afternoon, narcotics detective Chris Lyon turns off a country lane outside the town of Monticello in southeastern Kentucky, the part of the state hardest hit by the meth lab boom. In a case that shocked the state in 2009, a 20-month-old boy in a dilapidated trailer nearby drank a cup of Liquid Fire drain cleaner that was being used to make meth. The solution burned Kayden Branham from inside for 54 minutes until he died.

This afternoon, Lyon is following up on a call from a sheriff’s deputy about several meth labs in the woods. His Ford F-150 clambers up a steep muddy slope turned vivid ochre by the night’s rain. In the back are a gas mask, oxygen tanks, safety gloves, and hazmat suits, plus a bucket of white powder called Ampho-Mag that’s used to neutralize toxic meth waste. Cleaning up labs is hazardous work: In the last two years, more than 180 officers have been injured in the process. The witches’ brew that turns pseudoephedrine into meth includes ammonium nitrate (from fertilizer or heat packs), starter fluid, lithium (from batteries), drain cleaner, and camping fuel. It can explode or catch fire, and it produces copious amounts of toxic gases and hazardous waste even when all goes well.

Halfway up Edwards Mountain, Lyon pulls over in a clearing along the forested trail. Scattered over 50 yards are a half-dozen soda bottles, some containing a grayish, granular residue, others sprouting the plastic tubes cooks use to vent gas. Lyon snaps on black safety gloves, pulls a gas mask over his face, and carefully places each bottle in its own plastic bucket. Further up the mountain he finds more outdoor labs and repeats the procedure.

Police cleaning up a meth lab

Cops in Laurel County, Kentucky, work a meth lab—or, as they put it, a “glorified garbage pickup.”

Lyon will drive his haul back to the Monticello Police Department, where a trailer is jam-packed with buckets he’s filled in the past few days. “No suspects, no way of making an arrest—it’s pretty much a glorified garbage pickup,” he says with an air of dejection. “We have all kinds of information of people selling drugs,” but there’s no time for investigations. “About the time that we get started on something, the phone rings and it’s another meth lab to go clean up.”

It’s a problem Lieutenant Eddie Hawkins, methamphetamine coordinator for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, was all too familiar with before his state passed its prescription bill in 2010. Since then the number of meth labs found in the state has fallen 74 percent. “We still have a meth problem,” Hawkins says, “but it has given us more time to concentrate on the traffickers that are bringing meth into the state instead of working meth labs every night.” Now, he says, they go after international criminal networks rather than locking up small-time cooks.

The spread of meth labs has tracked the hollowing out of rural economies. Labs are concentrated in struggling towns where people do hard, physical work for low wages, notes Nick Reding, whose book Methland charts the drug’s rise in the Midwest: “Meth makes people feel good. Even as it helps people work hard, whether that means driving a truck or vacuuming the floor, meth contributes to a feeling that all will be okay.” But the highly addictive drug can also wreak havoc on users, ravaging everything from teeth and skin to hearts and lungs. And the mushrooming of shake-and-bake labs has left its own trail of devastation: hospitals swamped with injured meth cooks, wrecked and toxic homes, police departments consumed with cleaning up messes rather than fighting crime.

Meth-related cleanup and law enforcement cost the state of Kentucky about $30 million in 2009, the latest year for which the state police have produced an estimate. That doesn’t include the cost of crimes addicts commit to support their habit, of putting out meth fires, of decontaminating meth homes, of responding to domestic-abuse calls or placing neglected, abused, or injured kids in foster care. Dr. Glen Franklin, who oversees the burn unit at the University of Louisville Hospital, says his unit alone sees 15 to 20 meth lab burn patients each year, up from two or three a decade ago. They are some of his most difficult cases, often involving both thermal and chemical burns to the face and upper body from a bottle that burst into flames. Many, he notes, have also been abusing OxyContin or other prescription opiates, “so it makes their pain control that much more difficult.” According to a study coauthored by Franklin in 2005, it costs an average of nearly $230,000 to treat a meth lab victim—three times more than other burn patients—and that cost is most often borne by taxpayers. Meth use as a whole, according to a 2009 RAND Corporation study, costs the nation anywhere between $16 billion and $48 billion each year.

With silver hair, glasses, and a gentle manner, Linda Belcher looks like the retired grade school teacher she is. Though her district, just south of Louisville, has a meth lab problem, she didn’t know much about the issue until Joe Williams, the head of narcotics enforcement at the Kentucky State Police, invited her and a few other lawmakers to state police headquarters. After a dinner of barbecue, coleslaw, and pork and beans, the guests descended to the basement to be briefed about key public safety issues. One was meth labs, whose effects and increasing numbers were depicted in a series of huge charts. One of Williams’ officers laid out the startling facts. Meth labs were up for the second year in a row in Kentucky, and they were spreading eastward across the state. They were turning up in cars, motel rooms, and apartment buildings, putting unsuspecting neighbors at risk. Police had pulled hundreds of children from meth lab locations. Prisons were filling up with cooks, and officers were being tied up in cleanup operations.

Belcher had been aware of methamphetamine, but she’d had no idea how bad things were getting. She set about learning more. “I went to a meeting and there was a young lady there who had been on meth,” Belcher recalls. “During the time she was on it, she didn’t care about anything—not her daughter, not her parents. All she wanted was to get money and get meth. That convinced me.”

A man and a woman kissing

Theresa Hall kisses her boyfriend goodbye. For being caught with meth paraphernalia and violating house arrest, she faces a year in jail.

Belcher asked Williams and other law enforcement officials what they thought should be done. They told her about what had happened in Oregon. It could work in Kentucky, they said. In February 2010, Belcher filed a bill to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine.

Soon her phone started ringing off the hook. The callers were angry. If her bill passed, they said, they would have to go to the doctor each time they were congested. It wasn’t true—more than 100 cold and allergy drugs made without pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed PE, would have remained over the counter. And for those who didn’t like those alternatives, doctors could renew prescriptions by phone.

Members of the House Health and Welfare Committee, the key panel Belcher’s bill had to clear, were also getting calls. Tom Burch, the committee’s chairman, says the prescription measure garnered more calls and letters than any he’s dealt with in his nearly 40 years at the Capitol, except for abortion bills. “I had enough constituent input on it to know that the bill was not going to go anywhere.”

Yet the legislation had gotten hardly any media coverage. How had Kentuckians become so outraged?

In April of that year, Donnita Crittenden was processing monthly lobbying reports at the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission when a figure stopped her in her tracks. A group called the Consumer Healthcare Products Association reported having spent more than $303,000 in three weeks. No organization had spent nearly that much on lobbying in the entire previous year.

Curious, Crittenden called CHPA. It was, she learned, a Washington-based industry association representing the makers and distributors of over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements—multinational behemoths like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. CHPA had registered to lobby in Kentucky just weeks before, right after Belcher filed her bill. But it had already retained M. Patrick Jennings, a well-connected lobbyist who’d earned his stripes working for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and GOP Rep. Ed Whitfield.

The bulk of CHPA’s record spending, though, was not for lobbyists. It was for a tool more commonly used in hard-fought political campaigns: robocalls, thousands of them, with scripts crafted and delivered by out-of-state PR experts to target legislators on the key committees that would decide the bill’s fate.

CHPA’s Kentucky filings don’t show which firm made the robocalls, but the association’s 2010 and 2011 tax returns show more than $1 million worth of payments to Winning Connections, a robocall company that typically represents Democratic politicians and liberal causes such as the Sierra Club’s campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline. On its website, the company boasts of its role in West Virginia, where it helped defeat a pseudoephedrine bill that had “strong backing among special interests groups and many in the State Capitol” via focused calls in key legislative districts. CHPA’s former VP for legal and government affairs, Andrew C. Fish, is quoted as saying that Winning Connections helped “capture the voice of consumers, which made the critical difference in persuading legislators to change course on an important issue to our member companies.” Nowhere does Winning Connections’ site mention the intent of the bill or the word “methamphetamine.” CHPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Funderburk says the association used the calls, which allowed people to be patched through directly to their legislators, to provide a platform for real consumers to get their voices heard.

Belcher’s bill never came up for a vote. Over the ensuing months, the number of meth labs found in Kentucky would grow by 45 percent, surpassing 1,000.

Belcher had learned a lesson. When she reintroduced the prescription bill in 2011, it had support from a string of groups with serious pull at the Capitol—the teachers’ union, the Kentucky Medical Association, four statewide law enforcement organizations, and Kentucky’s most senior congressman, Hal Rogers. Belcher also had bipartisan leadership support in the Legislature, and the Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, Tom Jensen—whose district included the county with the second-highest number of meth labs—introduced a companion bill in the state Senate.

But the pharmaceutical industry came prepared, too. Its team of lobbyists included some of the best-connected political operatives in Kentucky, from former state GOP chairman John T. McCarthy III to Andrew “Skipper” Martin, the chief of staff to former Democratic Gov. Paul Patton. In addition to a new round of robocalls, CHPA now deployed an ad blitz, spending some $93,000 to blanket the state with 60-second radio spots on at least 178 stations. The bill made it out of committee, but with the outcome doubtful, Jensen never brought it up for a vote on the Senate floor.

Soda cans and an ice pack laying on the ground

Meth cooks often set up shop in the woods.

John Schaaf, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission’s counsel, describes CHPA’s strategy as a game changer. “They have completely turned the traditional approach to lobbying around,” he says. “For the most part, businesses and organizations that lobby, if they have important issues going on, they’ll add lobbyists to their list. They’ll employ more people to go out there and talk to legislators. CHPA employs very few lobbyists and they spend 99 percent of their lobbying expenditures on this sort of grassroots outreach on phone banking and advertising. As far as I know, nothing’s ever produced the number of calls or the visibility of this particular effort.”

In other words: Rather than relying on political professionals to deliver their message, CHPA got voters to do it—and politicians listened, in Kentucky and beyond. There has been no major federal legislation to address meth labs since 2005, when pseudoephedrine was put behind the counter and sales limits were imposed (see “The Need for Speed,” page 37). Lawmakers in 24 states have tried to pass prescription bills since 2009. In 23 of them, they failed.

The single exception was Mississippi, where a prescription measure supported by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour passed in 2010. The head of the state Bureau of Narcotics, Marshall Fisher, says one key to the bill’s passage was making sure it was not referred to the Legislature’s health committee, where members tend to develop close relationships with pharma lobbyists. Fisher has testified about prescription bills before health committees in several other states. “It seems like every time we’ve done that, the deck is stacked against us,” he says. “You can’t fight that.” Following the bill’s passage, the number of meth labs busted in Mississippi fell more than 70 percent. The state narcotics bureau, which tracks the number of drug-endangered children, reported the number of such cases fell 81 percent in the first year the law was in effect.





Timeline: Big Pharma’s Fight to Protect the Drugs That Cooks Turn Into Meth

1980 The federal government tightens restrictions on phenyl-2-propanone, used to make methamphetamine. Meth producers switch to ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, used in cold meds, to produce a more potent form of meth.
1986 Fresh from its, and so far only, victory against a drug—control of the chemical used to make quaaludes—the Drug Enforcement Administration proposes controls for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Pharma lobbyist Allan Rexinger calls the White House, which “basically intervened on our behalf,” Rexinger tells the Oregonian in 2004. “After that we had useful negotiations with the dea.”
1988 The Federal Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act mandates recordkeeping for various drug precursor chemicals. Industry wins an exemption for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in pill form. Meth producers and their suppliers switch to ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in pill form.
1993 The Domestic Chemical Diversion and Control Act closes the ephedrine pill loophole, but pseudoephedrine exemption remains. Labs switch from ephedrine to pseudoephedrine pills.
1996 The Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act closes the pseudoephedrine pill loophole. Industry, with help from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), wins exemption for pills sold in blister packs. Labs switch to blister packs.
2000 The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act reduces the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be sold in a single transaction. Blister packs are again exempted. Meth labs proliferate nationwide.
2004 Oklahoma becomes the state to put pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Industry fights the measure. Meth labs plummet in Oklahoma, encouraging other states to follow suit.
2005 The Federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act requires stores to put pseudoephedrine behind the counter (without requiring a prescription) and limits how much an individual can buy. Industry says this will hurt consumers and won’t reduce labs. Meth lab incidents fall 61 percent nationwide. But cooks begin employing smurfers to go from pharmacy to pharmacy and buy the maximum amount allowed.
2006 Oregon makes pseudoephedrine a prescription drug despite massive industry lobbying. Meth lab incidents decrease 96 percent in Oregon over the next six years.
2007 Bucking industry opposition, Mexico bans most pseudoephedrine. Potency of meth being smuggled into the US plunges as Mexican labs switch to other chemicals.
2009 to present Lawmakers in 24 states try to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug. In DC, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden drafts a federal prescription bill. All but one of the bills are defeated. Citing consumer concerns and “heavy industry spending,” Wyden never introduces his legislation.



Photo Essay: Chasing Meth in Laurel County, Kentucky

Mother Jones: When you got to Kentucky, the story had been reported almost a year earlier. What were some of the hurdles you ran into because of the time that had passed between when it was reported and when you got there to shoot it?

Stacy Kranitz: It was a real challenge to put together the logistics for the story. Jonah, the writer, had connected with and written about people that we could not locate. Some were no longer interested in making their story public. He met a young woman who watched her parents succumb to meth addiction when she was 12. Now 23 with a child of her own, she originally agreed to let me photograph her with her family. Her parents initially liked the idea of a family portrait, but, as we approached the day of the shoot, the family had several arguments about whether it was a good idea to dig up a very painful past. The young woman thought it was important to share what they went through in hopes that it would be helpful to others, but her parents felt a lot of shame about this time in their lives. She called me to cancel, and I really could not blame her for wanting to honor her parents’ wishes and keep peace in the house they all shared by keeping her family out of the public eye.

Jason Back, a narcotics officer in the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department, searches for meth-making supplies in an abandoned trailer.

Teresa Hall kisses her boyfriend Steven Simpson after being found at an abandoned trailer with meth-related paraphernalia.

MJ: Were the law enforcement officers you worked with open to you following them?

SK: Fortunately, we got very lucky with Jason Blank and the entire Laurel County Sheriff’s Department. They were very low-key and open to me spending time with them. I originally asked to spend two days observing Jason work but stuck around for five. The busting of meth labs can be hit-or-miss. So I scheduled five days without any real guarantee that there would be anything to photograph. Fortunately for the story, I was able to witness several types of meth operations.

MJ: Was it hard to shoot Jason while trying to help him keep his cover, since he is an undercover agent?

SK: That was not so hard. I always knew that I could edit out anything that visibly showed Jason’s face. I was always on the lookout for objects that would obfuscate him. Jason always had backup for undercover operations and he would put me in the backup car so that I would not blow his cover. Once the arrest was made, I would pop out of the car with my camera. It felt a little like I was a camerawoman on To Catch a Predator.

Meth-related trash in the woods.

A house that burned down in a fire caused by a meth lab.

MJ: What were some of the more memorable meth crime scenes you saw?

SK: The first call we went on was in an abandoned trailer with no running water or electricity. The walls were covered with cryptic texts and morbid poems. Jason arrested three repeat offenders who were squatting there, and they were very nice about the whole bust. They would joke with Jason and talk about mutual friends. It was much more casual than I had expected. No handcuffs. Later in the week, on another bust, I witnessed the arrest of a couple that were caught cooking meth in their trailer. It was a very nice home that was well maintained with a beautiful view of the Kentucky hills. As we were pulling away, the neighbors—who were related to the arrested couple—stopped us to find out what had happened. They were with the daughter who had caught a glimpse of her mother in the police car and began sobbing. It was a heartbreaking scene.

At the time of her arrest, Hall is supposed to be on house arrest for meth intoxication.

MJ: What’s the relationship there between the law enforcement and the community? It’s a relatively small population; I imagine there might be instances where the police are arresting people they know, that they grew up with?

SK: There were some people Jason knew because he had arrested them many times. Sometimes a last name would trigger Jason to ask if he and the arrested person knew people in common. It helps Jason to do his job to keep a friendly rapport with those he arrests. This way they are more likely to reveal additional information or may become informants later on.

All the supplies needed to cook meth using the one-step method can be found at this Walmart in London, Kentucky.

Back sits in an unmarked car outside a pharmacy, where he’s hoping to catch a suspect who has been forging prescriptions for pain pills.

A woman is arrested outside the Walmart in Corbin, Kentucky, based on information received after seizing a cell phone from an earlier meth bust.

MJ: Did you find yourself sympathizing more with the police or the people being arrested? Did working with the police make people less willing to let you photograph them?

SK: I witnessed both the cops and the addicts behave poorly. I also found both to be kind-hearted and compassionate. When cops behave badly, it is usually learned behavior that can be traced back to poor leadership. It must be draining to work in drug enforcement. You see a lot of good people doing terrible things to themselves and their family and friends. It felt like most of the people I saw arrested had been down on their luck and got caught up on the wrong side of things. I also saw people who were willfully neglecting their children and causing harm to those around them. But I did not have enough information to judge them either way. As the week went on, I became more and more sympathetic to both law enforcement and the addicts.

Every mugshot of an arrest by the sheriff’s department goes up on the Laurel County Sheriff Facebook page. Most people were relieved to find out that I was not making those photos. Much of the county follows this page, and it is embarrassing to have your photo posted for everyone to see along with the official charges of your arrest. When I explained what the story was about, they seemed genuinely interested in the issue as it affected them personally.

Inmates paint the exterior of the Laurel County Detention Center.

Tara, 33, is in prison for shoplifting. She goes to recovery meetings to help with her meth and pill addiction.

Debbie Gilbert runs the Celebrate Recovery programs at the Laurel County jail.

MJ: Were there any instances where you ran into people who didn’t want you to take their pictures?

SK: One day I had some free time while Jason was in court. I decided that, instead of sitting in the hotel waiting for him, I would go back and visit some of the homes where people were arrested. I wanted to talk with families and try to make some photographs that shared more about the circumstances surrounding the addiction. It was awkward because the last time they saw me I was with armed police officers that were taking a loved one away. The first family I met politely declined. I felt awful and thought about giving up on the idea. But I also knew that my desire to speak with family members was not a malicious one and so I went to visit another family. On my second stop, I met the cousin of a woman that was arrested the day before. She was at the house cleaning up the mess the cops had made when they dumped out trash to find evidence of meth production. I spent a few hours with her and her two daughters. She had struggled with her own meth addiction and was now celebrating six years of sobriety. A photograph of her and her daughters made it into the magazine and I just wrote her last week to make arrangements to visit with a copy.

Beverly Burkhardt with her daughters Adrieana, 15, and Britney, 10, on the porch of her cousin who’d been arrested a day earlier for making meth.

MJ: How did you find Karen Moore and how did you get her to let you photograph her and her family?
SK: I met Karen through Debbie Gilbert, who runs the addiction recovery program at Hawk Creek Baptist Church and inside the county jail. Debbie met Karen in these meetings during her yearlong sentence for meth possession. Karen had only been out of jail for two weeks when Debbie invited her to speak about her life at a weeknight recovery service I attended. Karen has a very sweet personality. She and her husband had been caught up in cooking and using meth for some time. I knew from her story that she had lost her children but was now living with them under the care of her mother, who also was in charge of many of Karen’s siblings’ children. Three of the four siblings had been caught up in meth addiction. I spent two hours with the family on a Saturday morning. It was a very loving household. Karen was still adjusting to life outside of prison. She was very open about the transition her three sons went through during the year she spent in jail. I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to try and make photographs that showed how someone could pull himself or herself out of addiction.

Karen Moore, who has been sober for a year and out of jail for two weeks, with her sons Jordan, 9, and Isaiah, 5.

MJ: Your style of photography is incredibly intimate; you’re in the thick of things and make the viewer feel as if they’re right there. How do you get people to open up to you, to get so comfortable having you photographing them?

SK: I don’t fit the stoic, silent observer photojournalist stereotype. For a long time this made me feel very unprofessional, but I have come to realize that it helps makes me endearing to people. I am very unintimidating, physically quite small. I am clumsy; I trip over things. I overshare about my own personal life. Long ago I made a decision that I had to be willing to be as vulnerable and as transparent to the people I met as I was asking them to be for my camera.

A Walmart cashier called the cops after a man bought materials that could be used to make meth. He was caught in a motel parking lot.

A contamination notice on the door of a house where a meth lab was found. The property must be decontaminated at the owner’s expense before anyone can return to live there.

MJ: We really wanted to be careful to not portray the people in this story in a stereotypical light of sad/blighted/ignorant Appalachian people, which is one reason we felt strongly about working with you on this. Do you run into much reluctance from people to be photographed out of fear of how they’ll be portrayed?

SK: I did not have that problem while working on this story. I think most of the people I interacted with understood how meth was affecting their community and were genuinely interested in the issues that the story was raising. I definitely questioned some of the images I made. If I am not doing that then I am not doing my job. I am still questioning some of the images I made during the assignment. I still wrestle with some of the murky grey areas that I ran into during this story while trying to have a positive relationship with both meth addicts and police officers.

Keith Lay was arrested for cooking meth in his home.

Materials for producing meth found at a trailer where Keith Lay and his girlfriend were arrested.

Karen Couch talks with police officers about the arrest of her neighbor and niece for possessing materials to make meth.

MJ: You’ve been shooting in this area for a while. What drew you to this part of Appalachia? How long have you been there?

SK: I started coming to southern Ohio for a project about a dystopian compound called Skatopia in 2009. While I was there, I began reading about the area and found it to be a very contentious place in terms of the history of how it had been represented through photography and film. I had always been influenced by James Agee and Walker Evans’ Let Is Now Praise Famous Men. It became evident that Appalachia was a place where representation had long been vexed. Appalachia proper extends from Mississippi to New York: It is this huge unwieldy thing that is hard to define when looking at the full stretch of land it occupies. I wanted to try and make work that would extend the complicated legacy of photographs made by Walker Evans, Earl Palmer, Doris Ulmann, William Gedney, Susan Lipper, Shelby Lee Adams and many others. I have always been interested in regionalism and was looking for a place where I could make images that addressed a legacy of image making within the documentary tradition. I sort of stumbled upon the perfect place to locate this type of project. I have spent the last three summers in central Appalachia: Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. I just arrived for my fourth summer.

MJ: And what keeps you there? Why do you keep coming back?

SK: I see my work as an ongoing narrative that unravels very slowly. The closer I get to people, the more connections I make with places in the region, the harder it is for me to leave. So I keep investing time trying to say something genuine and unique. Environmental concerns over strip mining, the decline of the coal industry and its economic effects on communities, and the failure of government-funded Suboxone to cure pain pill addiction are just a few of the things that keep me deeply engaged in making work about central Appalachia.

Thomas James Canson is in jail for manufacturing meth. Has been using meth and in and out of custody for more than 15 years.

Meth collected by officer Jason Back during a raid.

MJ: What’s next? Any plans on where you’ll head next, or do you plan on sticking around that part of the country?

SK: I have to move back to California at the end of September to finish my last year of graduate school. I’ll be living out of my car, shooting every day until then. I have a wonderfully hectic year ahead. I am releasing my first book, From The Study on Post-Pubescent Manhood, with a small publisher out of Canada called Straylight Press, this month. I will also be writing 10 short essays, to be published every 6 weeks, about my work and the representational issues it raises for a photojournalism website called Bag News Notes. I’m making a final cut of my first feature length documentary film. It is a companion piece to the book that is being released. It is a very intimate portrait study of someone I met while working in Ohio. I will also have my first solo show next February at Drkrm Gallery in Los Angeles.

Next summer, I will prepare to move somewhere very different from California. It’s never been a great fit for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about Tennessee. It is centrally located to so many compelling places and it will allow me to continue to work on making images in central Appalachia. I have some time to figure that out. More than anything I hope to find a way to make just enough money to continue working on these long-term projects that I refuse to end.

After spending a year behind bars, Karen Moore (right) has returned home to live with her mom (left) and three of her children.

Crystal Math: The Price of Big Pharma’s Pseudoephedrine Addiction

$23.4 billion – Estimated cost of meth epidemic, from child protection to law enforcement



$32 million
Cost of injury and death from meth labs


$29 million
Cost of environmental cleanup of meth labs

Estimated number of children affected by meth labs, 2002-11

Incarcerations for murder/manslaughter in state prisons attributable to meth

Portion of car theft offenses attributable to meth

$605 million
Estimated value of pseudoephedrine sales

States that have considered prescription legislation

States that have passed it


Decline in meth lab incidents after prescription legislation took effect in 2006

Children removed from houses with active meth labs since law took effect

Cost of meth lab cleanup, 2005

Cost of meth lab cleanup, 2011


Drop in pseudoephedrine sold after prescription law went into effect in 2010

Decline in meth lab incidents

Decline in drug-endangered children

Drop in spending on meth lab cleanup costs


$30 million
Cost of meth labs to the state (including incarceration), 2009

Number of police hours spent on lab cleanup, 2010

Increase in labs, 2008-09

Increase in crimes associated with meth, 2008-09

Share of hospital burn patients who were injured in meth labs

Average hospital cost for meth lab burn victims

Average for other burn patients

Death rate among meth lab burn victims

Rate among other burn victims

Most frequent ages of meth lab victims, 2010

Map of the US

Sources: RAND, GAO, CHPA, Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association, Kentucky State Police, University of Louisville study.





Horrifying Before and After Photos of Meth Users


In the early 2000s, a sheriff’s deputy in Portland, Oregon, was struck by the way people locked up for meth offenses seemed to age years in just a few months between bookings.

Two headshots of a man side-by-side
Two headshots of a man side-by-side
Two headshots of a man side-by-side
Two headshots of a woman side-by-side
Two headshots of a woman side-by-side
Two headshots of a woman side-by-side

Photos courtesy of Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. These photos first appeared in the Oregonian.




Methamphetamine continues to be a problem in Cheyenne County, but marijuana is by far the most commonly used and trafficked drug in the area.

“Our number one drug is marijuana, but that leads to other drug use,” said Cheyenne County Sheriff John Jenson.

After arriving in Sidney, Police Chief B.J. Wilkinson was briefed at a staff meeting earlier this week about the most pressing issues facing Sidney Police. Officers informed Wilkinson that the top three drugs causing problems in this area are marijuana, methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse.

“Those three things are what guys are seeing,” Wilkinson said.

The Sheriff agrees that in the recent past, Cheyenne County had a pretty nasty problem with prescription pills. This problem has decreased but hasn’t stopped, Jenson said. Law enforcement distributed information to local doctors about how to spot addicts. Doctors worked in conjunction with Sheriff’s office to cut down on prescription drug abuse, Jenson said. 

When Police interact with a citizen for any infraction, officers check for specific smells and behaviors to detect drug use.

“Every time we have contact with an individual we’re on alert for signs and triggers,” Wilkinson said. “It’s a heightened state of vigilance.” 

In past years, officials were finding quite a few methamphetamine labs in the area, but now local users are getting pharmaceutical grade product, mostly from Mexico, Wilkinson said. This is because some of the ingredients used to make the drug are becoming harder to acquire such a Sudafed and lithium batteries. 

In many stores, customers must sign for these products. Those working on garbage trucks also know how to check for evidence of methamphetamine manufacture in the trash.

“People are keeping a closer eye,” Wilkinson said. 

This higher grade of drug from Mexico sells for about the same price as the version that can be manufactured here, so dealers find it appealing. 

Although labs in the area are not as common as they used to be, the cooking method has changed, and has become smaller and more condensed. 

Local law enforcement do monitor anhydrous ammonia tanks to ensure that it isn’t being stolen. Anhydrous ammonia is a farm chemical and can also be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The farm cooperatives in the area are aware of this problem and try to keep a close watch on inventory.

“We’ve got a great working relationship with all the co-ops,” Jenson said. “They’re a hug supporter of law enforcement in the area.” 

Unfortunately, the proliferation of additional crimes go hand in hand with methamphetamine abuse, and this impacts the entire community. Addicts will break into cars to pilfer change and or anything else that can be traded for the drug. It’s common for methamphetamine addicts to steal items and sell them to pawn shops for money to buy drugs. When the police bust someone for methamphetamine, they’re never surprised when they must file additional charges. 

“It’s not unusual to find stolen property,” Wilkinson said.

Jenson agreed that when any type of drug use occurs in a community it contributes to higher levels of other crimes in that area as well.

“If we have meth, we have a meth problem,” Jenson said.

Addiction to this drug is so strong that those using it think about nothing else but their next high, he added. 

“They’re using right now and know they need to use again,” Wilkinson said.

Those addicted to methamphetamine will do anything to achieve their next fix.  “Its addictive properties are wicked bad,” Wilkinson added. 

Even if marijuana is the biggest drug problem in the Sidney area, methamphetamine use cannot be ignored because of the devastation it causes to the individual who uses it, and in turn to the entire community. Just the physical effects of the drug are awful, Wilkinson said.

From 2010-2012 the number of controlled purchases, or covert purchases made by undercover officers or informants, made by the WING task force have gone from 30 to 185, the majority of which are methamphetamine said Nebraska State Trooper and commander of the WING task force Dana Korell.

“We’re just doing our job,” Korell said.

The number of drug arrests by the force have gone up 600 percent in two years, but Korell can’t attribute that entirely to more drug use in the area. He credits the work ethic of his team for increasing the numbers.

“The task force has really been busy the past couple of years,” Korell said. 

Korell agreed with other area law enforcement that marijuana is the most problematic drug in the area, so much so that they just can’t arrest all dealers or users that they’re aware of.

“We have to prioritize busts,” Korell said. 

Because of high usage and relatively small penalties for marijuana compared to methamphetamine, many times methamphetamine users and dealers are pursued more aggressively. This is also because of the impact methamphetamine use has on those around the user, Korell added. 

“Our area took a stance against meth,” Jenson said. “We went after labs and possession and distribution.” 

Although the prevalence of the drug is down in Cheyenne County, law enforcement agencies in the area are still working against it. 

“It tears families apart,” Jenson said. “We need to consistently go after that.” 

He does think that especially because of Cheyenne County’s proximity to Colorado, marijuana is the most worrisome drug in the area. 

“Marijuana is a gateway drug,” Jenson said. “Marijuana is a huge problem.” 

Jenson knows that drug activity of any kind has an impact on the quality of life for the citizens who live close to it. 

“It’s a fight that’s always gonna be there,” Jenson said. “I will not rest, we will not rest as long as it’s there.” 

Area law enforcement continue to work to quell all drug activity in the area.

“I know the people of this community and our county won’t stand for it,” Jenson said.



One person is under arrest in Putnam County after deputies say they found a meth lab inside a home.

At 11 a.m. this morning authorities received a tip there was a working meth lab at the Nottingham Mobile Home Park in Scott Depot. Deputies with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the home and noticed a strange odor. They obtained a search warrant found materials needed to make meth.

Meth lab bust in Putnam County

Meth lab bust in Putnam County


Meth lab bust in Putnam County

Meth lab bust in Putnam County

Stacie Oldham of Scott Depot was placed under arrest and will be charged with making meth.The scene is still under investigation and additional individuals may be charged.



Laurel county deputies arrested two people they said called them about a burglary at their home.
The sheriff said they got a call at around 11:40 p.m. Saturday about a burglary at a home on Four Oaks Road in London.
When deputies arrived at the scene, they said the man and woman at the home gave them conflicting accounts about what happened.
Deputies said after investigating, they realized there was no burglars and that Lukeshia Collett-Sowder, 40, had been smoking methamphetamine prior to calling 911.
They said Anthony Vaughn, 38, admitted he also smoked methamphetamine, taken pain pills, and drank beer prior to the deputies arriving.


A strung-out taxi driver has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for cutting two police officers with a knife while under the influence of methamphetamine, Jing’an District People’s Court said Friday.

The defendant, whom the court called Wu Ming, was charged with disrupting public service with violence, according to a court press release.

Wu later said in court that he began using the drug, an illegal stimulant, at the beginning of the year to help him relieve stress and stay awake behind the wheel.

He went to the police station in the Caojiadu residential community in Jing’an district on May 15 in search of help. He had been suffering from paranoia after taking methamphetamine the day before while driving his taxi in Pudong New Area.

He said he had hallucinations that night. The next day, he couldn’t escape a feeling of paranoia. It was bad enough that he took a knife with him to work.

Because many people were already waiting at the police station, Wu didn’t stay long. But his appearance was suspicious enough that officers followed him back to his car.

This spooked Wu, who began waving his knife at them. The officers suffered minor cuts before they were able to restrain him.

A test later determined that Wu was under the influence of drugs.




LANCASTER — A man suspected of running a mobile methamphetamine lab escaped police about 11 a.m. Sunday.

Officers responded to a vehicle fire near the Hampton Inn on Memorial Drive, determined the fire was the result of a mobile meth lab and took a man into custody.

The man then escaped the police and is still at large.

According to police the man is 5-foot-11 and about 160 pounds with red hair and tattooed arms.

He was last seen wearing a white tank top and was in police handcuffs when he escaped.




Singaporean authorities Saturday arrested a Vietnamese woman who was carrying more than 4 kilograms of methamphetamine at Changi Airport.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai, 47, was stopped for checking at 8:45 a.m. when she arrived from Vietnam.  Officials from immigration and the Central Narcotics Bureau found two slabs of a crystallized substance wrapped in aluminum foil in her suitcase.


Singapore customs authorities found 4.1 kilograms of methamphetamine in the suitcase of a Vietnamese woman at Changi Airport August 10

The slabs were found to contain about 4.1 kg of meth, also called ice, estimated to be worth around US$500,000.   The ICA and CNB said in a joint statement Sunday that preliminary investigations suggest that the drugs were likely meant to be taken out of the country and not intended to be sold in Singapore.

 Yeoh Poh Teck, a CNB officer, told Thanh Nien the woman would be charged in court today.

 Singapore’s narcotics laws established by the Misuse of Drugs Act are very strict. The illegal traffic, import or export of more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine or morphine, 250 grams of methamphetamine, or 500 grams of cannabis may face the death penalty.