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Officials: Meth cases on the rise

By Staff
DRUG SEIZURE East Mississippi Drug Task Force agents Warren Cox, left, and Chris Scott sort through evidence seized earlier this month from the bust of a methamphetamine lab in Collinsville. Law officers say methamphetamine is tough to control because it is easily made from products bought in grocery and drug stores. Photo by Lynette Wilson/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Oct. 30, 2002
In back bedrooms, garages and barns on the roads and rolling hills of Lauderdale and Clarke counties, some people manufacture a popular, addictive drug called methamphetamine.
Known on the street by such names as "crystal," "ice," "glass" and even "the poor man's cocaine," users snort it, smoke it or inject it all in an effort to feel an immediate rush, a sense of euphoria.
Law enforcement officials say meth has become the drug of choice, rivaling cocaine in popularity because it's easy to manufacture in back-room labs from ingredients found in grocery or drug stores.
Intense rush
Methamphetamine works on the central nervous system, sparking a head-rush that is usually followed by agitation, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
The drug is highly addictive with side effects that mimic those of crack cocaine including weight loss and intense withdrawal symptoms.
Users often buy meth from dealers on the street. Others manufacture the drug themselves, using such ingredients as battery acid and over-the-counter cold medicines with ephedrine.
Nationwide, meth has become the No. 1 drug produced, distributed and sold in rural America. In 2001 alone, law enforcement officers shut down 200 methamphetamine labs in Mississippi.
In Lauderdale County, the story has been much the same. The Sheriff's Department said at least 62 people have been arrested on crystal meth charges since 2000; no one was arrested in 1999.
Meth busts
Newton and Kemper county law enforcement officials did not return phone calls.
Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp said he had no information on meth arrests in his county. Kemp referred all other questions about meth to the East Mississippi Drug Task Force.
Drug task force agents said they had no arrest statistics for Clarke County. However, they said they have busted six meth labs in Clarke and Lauderdale counties within the past year.
The East Mississippi Drug Task Force includes officers from the Meridian Police Department, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department and the Clarke County Sheriff's Department. Most agents work undercover.
Popular drug
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie, whose department oversees the drug task force, said the growing popularity of meth started on the West Coast a few years ago and slowly moved east.
Cox said he believes the drug has become so popular because it's easy to manufacture.
Cox said he and fellow drug task force agents try to curb the methamphetamine problem by catching users after they obtain ingredients they need and before they begin manufacturing the drug.
Common ingredients
Cox said the most common ingredient the drug task force targets is pseudoephedrine and ephedrine commonly found in over-the-counter, weight loss, cold and asthma medications.
But before busting a methamphetamine lab, Cox said, officers must use caution because the chemicals used to make the drug are flammable, volatile and easily could explode.