When the federal government passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act in 2005, over-the-counter psuedoephedrine sales were restricted and the number of meth labs in the United States dropped sharply.
The act forced "meth cooks" and dealers to seek alternative methods of selling and manufacturing the highly addictive substance. As the Indiana State Police, the Greensburg Police Department and the Decatur County Sheriff's Department work to shut down meth distributorships in the county and surrounding communities, inventive and creative meth dealers have found another way to make the drug, threatening the progress that communities like Decatur County and law enforcement have made in the fight against it.
The new system of making meth is called the "one-pot method," sometimes referred to as the "shake and bake method."
According to Master Tpr. Chip Ayers of the ISP's Meth Suppression Section, the one-pot method takes less time, is just as strong and addictive as "normal" meth and is less traceable. Using the new strategy, meth makers mix smaller amounts of over-the-counter psuedoephedrine and other readily available chemicals in a plastic two-liter soda bottle.
The one-pot method allows meth makers to bypass the traditional meth lab and create the drug without a flame or a large-scale operation. It also reprieves Indiana's meth dealers from engaging in the risky behavior of anhydrous ammonia theft, a chief ingredient in the traditional meth recipe. Instead of pilfering the anhydrous ammonia, meth cooks can now mix together fertilizers and the psuedoephedrine in the two-liter bottle, or one pot. Farmers, sheriff's deputies and members of the community have become more alert around their anhydrous supplies, increasing the risk for those attempting to steal it. Innovative meth dealers have also found ways to extract ammonium nitrate, an ingredient necessary in the one-pot method, from "cold packs."
This new technique for making meth has been popularized in parts of Indiana, according to Tpr. Ayers. It has gained significant momentum in Jennings County and remains prevalent in areas north like South Bend and in the south-central part of the state.
"It's all they see up there," Ayers explained.
The one-pot method has not yet become the mode of choice in Decatur County for the meth trade, but its prevalence in surrounding communities could be cause for concern.
"In Decatur County, it's not very popular, yet," Ayers said. "Each and every week, we start to see more and more of it.Ó"
Though the traditional method and the one-pot system contain inherent risks due to the volatility of the chemicals involved, Ayers explained that the ISP is finding that the one-pot technique is actually more dangerous.
"The ingredients are just not compatible," he said.
The lithium batteries involved in both processes react violently in water, and in the one-pot method, they are directly compounded. This creates a potentially more volatile situation, in which the pot (the soda bottle) is held closely to the person and could erupt in a ball of fiery gas.
"Each and every way has its inherent dangers," Ayers said.
Once the meth is extracted from the pot, the cook will often dispose of the waste materials, usually by dumping them along the roadside, essentially putting the contents of the waste out in the open where they could potentially be found by children and pets. Ayers explained that when the equipment is thrown out, it is usually wrapped in an old bag or trash bag before being tossed outside. Recently, the Indiana State Police located two such items along the roadside in Sand Creek Township. Bridges and culverts are also hot spots for meth trash.
The discarded bottles are dangerous, due to the fact that the quick method of meth making does not allow the chemicals to be totally absorbed or utilized. To remain safe around potentially hazardous meth equipment, Ayers suggested not touching the items if the individual is not sure of their contents. Empty soda bottles that contain a powder-like substance or appear disfigured or marred in an unusual way could have been used for drugs. Suspicious materials like the blemished bottles inside a trash bag could be cause for concern as well. If the damaged bottle is emitting strange smells or is accompanied by tubing, it was likely used for the manufacture of meth.
"Unfortunately, we don't live in the quiet community. Things are changing every day," Ayers said.
Anyone with information concerning the possible manufacture, sales or discarded equipment of methamphetamine is encouraged to call the Indiana State Police Versailles Post at 812-689-5000 or (800) 566-6704. Citizens can also call the statewide Methamphetamine Tip Line at (800) 453-4756. Callers may remain anonymous. Locally, anonymous calls to the Greensburg Police Department can be made to 66-CRIME (2-7463) and to the Decatur County SheriffÕs Department at 222-TIPS (8477).
Information supplied by the Indiana State Police and www.drugabuse.gov was used in this article.