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The Meth Comeback

January 29, 2014, 10:00 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

The Meth Comeback

South Dakota is seeing a record number of meth cases despite law enforcement efforts to crack down on the dangerous drug.

In 2013, officers seized 79 pounds of meth - that's the highest amount the state has ever seen.

Meth lab busts are also up and so are the arrests that are landing meth addicts and meth cooks in jail.

"This is probably becoming a priority again, especially in our eastern part of the state. Most of those small labs are here, or were here," Darcy Jensen with Prairie View Prevention Services said.

In 2013, in Minnehaha County alone officers busted up 28 meth labs. That's more than the total number of labs discovered statewide the year before.

"Our numbers are up now. Our lab numbers we run 20 to 30 labs in a year now. We had 50 people in the last year who were arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine," Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

It's a troubling trend that has caught the attention of law enforcement and counselors. Jensen says state and federal funding for meth awareness has dried up.

"What we've seen with meth is now as we've done less education, there's less talk about meth treatment, people don’t perceive it as harmful and the access is there," Jensen said.

Governor Mike Rounds appointed a statewide meth task more than a decade ago and meth lab numbers were cut in half between 2004 and 2005. And after laws were enacted that made one of meth's key ingredients, pseudoephedrine, harder to get the numbers have stayed low until the last two years.

Milstead says the numbers are up because meth is now easier to make than ever before.

"They're using what's called a 'one pot' method which is extremely dangerous, dangerous to officers, dangerous to the public," Milstead said.

The ‘one pot’ method is also often called the ‘shake and bake’ method. Meth cooks can now make a few doses of the drug by mixing pseudoephedrine, fertilizer, lithium from batteries and other dangerous chemicals in pop bottles. Just last week, the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office discovered one of these labs near Brandon.

"The ability to create it in your own home is there so why not use something I have that much easy access to and I haven't heard a lot about it recently, so why not try it?" Jensen said.

Jensen says less emphasis on awareness efforts and the easier recipe to make meth have combined to fuel the dramatic increase.

"When you look at the lack of funding, which then creates a lack of awareness, and lack of education because we're not able to do those things and the 'one pot' method being so much easier and convenient for the person who's doing that I think those things in combination have really increased our meth production and use," Jensen said.

Attorney General Marty Jackley is asking the legislature to approve a new electronic monitoring system for tracking pseudoephedrine purchases in an effort to curb the rise in meth cases. Milstead says the real-time tracking will help law enforcement spot meth cooks more easily.

"It will really help our investigators to readily identify people who are out ‘smurfing,’ or going shop to shop, store to store, making multiple purchases of pseudoephedrine for the purposes of a clandestine lab and making it into methamphetamine," Milstead said.

Authorities are hoping it will help put a dent in the comeback of this dangerous drug.

Below is a chart of meth labs, arrests and seizures since 2002. Courtesy: South Dakota Attorney General's Office.



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