HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Stopping Meth Makers Hasn't Stopped Oklahoma's Meth Problems
Pubdate: Thu, 28 Jul 2005
Source: Oklahoman, The (OK)
Copyright: 2005 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


TULSA - A widely copied Oklahoma law that has led to a dramatic
drop in small-time methamphetamine labs has done little to curtail
meth abuse overall, with users now turning to Mexican-made versions of
the highly addictive drug, according to drug agents and others dealing
with the problem. Mexican drug cartel cell groups that have
traditionally focused on trafficking cocaine, heroin and marijuana are
now adding methamphetamine to their supply, said Lonnie Wright,
director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Wright told members of the Oklahoma Sentencing Commission on Thursday
that law enforcement is shifting its focus to these Mexican drug
smugglers who are dealing in a smokeable meth known as "crystal ice"
to fill a void left with the disappearance of Oklahoma meth labs.

"We're regrouping and we're kind of at a crossroads," Wright said. "I
think we're through with meth labs, at least for now."

Seizures of "crystal ice" have risen nearly fivefold since a state law
began putting local mom-and-pop meth makers out of business. Oklahoma
was the first of more than a dozen states to limit over-the-counter
sales of cold medicine containing a key ingredient used to make meth.
"Our problem hasn't gone away," said Oklahoma City Police Lt. Tom
Terhune, who investigates drug cases. "The problem that's gone away is
the meth labs." Oklahoma has seen a 90 percent drop in meth lab
seizures since it put medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind
pharmacy counters in April 2004. Congress is now considering similar

In the same 15 months, however, ice seizures rose to 1,875, compared
with 384 seizures in the previous 15 months, Oklahoma State Bureau of
Investigation statistics show. Officials in Arkansas, which limited
cold medicine sales three months ago, also say labs are down 50
percent but ice trafficking has continued to rise.

The increase partly reflects more enforcement, Terhune said.
Investigators who once spent days trying to shut down one or two
stovetop meth cooks are now cultivating informants and working to halt
complex trafficking rings involving the Mexican-made drug.

Former meth makers also may now be feeding their own habit with
imported drugs, but the trade-off is welcomed by law officers who know
the dangers of investigating the highly volatile and toxic meth labs
and the horror of finding children living in their midst.

"The violence with the drug is still there," Terhune said. "But the
house next door isn't going to blow up because they're selling ice out
of it." Meth users are known to become paranoid and violent, but an
Oklahoma County crisis center is alarmed by the growing number of
people arriving with meth-induced psychosis and signs of permanent
brain damage. They suspect drugs tainted with something even more
toxic than the brain-addling mix used by home meth cooks might be to
blame. "They're seeing things, hearing things and are very paranoid,"
said Reba Ferguson, director of stabilization and operations for the
Oklahoma County Crisis Intervention Center. "They're needing longer
term care." In the past five years, the number of people seeking
treatment primarily for meth addictions climbed 83 percent to 3,513,
according to the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Services. Spokesman Jeff Dismukes said it's not clear if continued
growth is driven by users seeking help because they can't readily get
the drug _ or simply by more drug use. Regardless "there are many
others still in need of treatment," he said. "These individuals will
often find other means to access their drug of choice."
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