Pubdate: Tue, 02 Mar 2010
Source: Clarion-Ledger, The (Jackson, MS)
Copyright: 2010 The Clarion-Ledger
Author: Gary Pettus
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Meth Surpasses Cocaine In Arrests

Unnecessary evil. Cycle of madness. Modern-day plague.

That's how law enforcement officials describe methamphetamine, an
illegal stimulant and appetite suppressant known as "the poor man's
cocaine." This relatively cheap, illegal drug is a physical and
spiritual corrosive eating into Mississippi's resources, social
fabric, and even its soul, law enforcement says.

In 2009 alone, the epidemic spawned at least 620 seizures of meth
laboratories by law enforcement agencies. That's more than double the
number from the previous year.

"I believe it's an epidemic," said Marshall Fisher, director of the
Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. "It's such a problem, we couldn't
avoid it if we wanted to."

The MBN arrested 981 people for meth in 2009, out of some 3,000 total
arrests. Meth users snort, smoke, swallow or inject meth to get high,
while others will take it to lose weight.

"We realized that for the first time in Mississippi, we had more meth
arrests than crack cocaine and cocaine powder combined," Fisher said.

"Meth had been running a close second for a long time."

With virtually a third of the MBN's arrests attributable to meth
cases, Fisher said he mandated a statewide crackdown on clandestine
meth labs.

"It's not unique to Mississippi. We're seeing the same thing in
Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky."

Meth is pervasive, Fisher and others say, because it's easy to get
hooked on and easy to make. It can be made almost anywhere, from
ingredients suitable for fertilizing fields, lighting lanterns and
unclogging drains.

"If you can make chocolate chip cookies, you can make meth," Fisher

Appearing in Mississippi as crystals, pills or a whitish or beige
powder, meth in any form often leads to ruined health and families.

"That drug takes people over; their children don't mean anything to
them," said Judge William Skinner, who has seen more than 500 meth
cases while presiding over the Hinds County felony drug court the past
three years.

"I had one case where meth parents were letting their friends and
their friends' friends have sex with their 12-year-old daughter for
crystal meth.

"I've never seen anything like it."

All but a handful of counties are touched by it. Meth hot spots,
Fisher said, include Jackson and Harrison counties on the Gulf Coast;
and, in the Jackson area, Rankin and Warren counties.

"We had 222 meth-related cases in 2009, and 209 for crack cocaine.
That's the first time we've had more meth cases," Jackson County
Sheriff Mike Byrd said.

As district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties, Michael Guest
has noticed a progressive rise in meth cases over the past dozen years.

"More than half of the drug-related offenses we prosecute are
meth-related," he said.

Its dangers demand a public awareness program, said Chief Deputy Steve
Pickett of the Hinds County Sheriff's Department.

"It's a modern-day plague over our state. It touches every family in
some fashion, whether it's an addict or a relative.

"It causes the loss of your teeth, the aging of the

"It attacks the body and the soul."

Traditionally considered a drug mostly used by whites, meth is
spilling over into the African-American and Hispanic communities of
Mississippi, Fisher said.

"The profile of the user has changed, not rapidly, but it's changed.
And we arrest people in their 30s, 40s, even 50s for this."

Often, the users are the makers.

"Within a hour, you can buy everything you need at Home Depot and
CVS," Fisher said.

"You can make up to three grams of meth within an hour after that.
You'll spend only $30 to $35 to get 12 to 15 people high for 12 to 20

That's using the quick but potentially explosive "shake-and-bake"
method, requiring only a 2-liter plastic bottle and certain chemicals.

"You can be driving down the road and make it. You can have it in a
backpack, walking down the street, cooking it," Fisher said.

"It can be made in motel rooms, trailer parks, apartment complexes,
deer stands."

In Mississippi, meth goes for about $100 to $125 per gram, Fisher

"But people who sell it here aren't getting rich. They aren't driving
a Mercedes.

"They're in this cycle of madness, or whatever you want to call

"They're just trying to support their habit."

They support it with a home-cooked recipe that can include Drano,
lithium batteries, ammonia nitrate, ether and other

Many ingredients merely extract the meth - a derivative of
amphetamine, the drug legally prescribed to treat narcolepsy and
Attention Deficit Disorder.

"But, unless you have that right there," Fisher said, jabbing a finger
at some over-the-counter cold-treatment tablets, "you can mix these
other ingredients until hell freezes over and you won't have dope."

The one essential ingredient is pseudoephedrine, the generic name for
such bran-name cold-symptom remedies as Sudafed.

"Meth abuse is an unnecessary evil because it's self-inflicted,"
Fisher said. "We know you need pseudoephedrine to make meth."

In February, at the urging of many law enforcement agents, state
lawmakers voted to make pseudoephedrine products available by
prescription only - which it had been prior to 1976.

The law is effective July 1. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D