Pubdate: Fri, 15 Nov 2002
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Kenneth Hart
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


ASHLAND - Sometimes, even the most innocent items can alert police to the 
presence of a methamphetamine laboratory, according to Lt. Col. Danny Fenwick.

Take coffee filters, for example.

Meth producers use them to strain the toxic chemical soup that is used to 
make the drug, removing the liquid and leaving only the powder, which can 
be smoked, snorted or injected, Fenwick said.

The difference between coffee filters used to make crystal meth and those 
used to make coffee is that the former are usually stained with a pinkish 
residue, he said.

Fenwick, a drug demand-reduction specialist with the Kentucky National 
Guard, gave a presentation titled "Meth 101" Thursday at King's Daughters 
Medical Center. The program, geared primarily toward law- enforcement 
officers, was sponsored by Pathways Inc.'s ALERT Regional Prevention Center.

Another item used in large quantities by meth producers is lithium 
batteries, Fenwick said. What they will do is remove the labels from the 
batteries, pop the tops and bottoms from the casings and remove the lithium 

One of the chief ingredients in the drug is pseudophedrine, which is found 
in many over-the-counter cold remedies and diet aids.

But perhaps the most dangerous substance used in the making of meth is 
anhydrous ammonia, Fenwick said.

Anhydrous ammonia is used by farmers as a fertilizer, Fenwick said. 
Anhydrous means that it hasn't been diluted with water.

"It's pure ammonia," he said.

Breathing the fumes from anhydrous ammonia can cause instant chemical 
pneumonia, or even death, Fenwick said. Contact with skin causes the flesh 
to flash-freeze and blacken.

What meth producers will often do is steal anhydrous ammonia from unguarded 
farm tanks, storing it in buckets, LP gas cylinders or whatever else is 
handy, Fenwick said.

Another tipoff that there's a meth lab operating in the neighborhood is the 
odor, which Fenwick said he had heard compared to the smell of cat urine.

"It's just a real nasty chemical smell," he said. "There's nothing organic 
about this stuff. It's all chemical."

The process by which methamphetamine is manufactured is often referred to 
as "cooking," but according to Fenwick, that is somewhat misleading because 
there's no heat involved. Rather, the drug is produced through a series of 
chemical reactions.

Initially, meth-making was a nine-step process, but clandestine chemists 
have since refined it to five steps, Fenwick said. And, a batch of the drug 
can now be produced in six to eight hours, where it used to take 24 hours 
or longer, he said.

Fenwick said a growing trend is the mobile meth lab, where chemicals are 
mixed in cars, camping trailers and other conveyances. The reason more 
producers are going to that method is to avoid being hit hard by 
asset-forfeiture laws.

"If they get caught, all they've lost is a car," he said.

Fenwick cited a recent case in Lexington where a police officer noticed a 
vehicle pulling a camping trailer that kept traveling New Circle Road over 
and over. When the officer stopped the vehicle, he found a working meth lab 
inside the trailer, he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Tom