Tulsa Police: City Becoming Known As Nation's Meth Capital

Friday, March 4th 2011, 5:38 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa Police say our city is becoming known as the meth capital of the nation.

Labs are a huge problem all over Oklahoma, but especially in Green Country. That's why a state lawmaker wants to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug, like it used to be in the 1970's, rather than have it sold over the counter.

3/3/2011 Related Story: Oklahoma May Require Prescription For Common Cold Medicine

Two states have already done that.

Mississippi passed its law six months ago and says labs are already down. Oregon passed its law in 2006 and saw Meth labs decrease by 96 percent, from 600 a year to six. Meth related ER visits dropped by a third and their crime rate is at a 50 year low.

The number of meth labs has gone up 453 percent in Oklahoma in the past three years.

The U.S. drug czar says cleaning up a lab can cost $350,000 dollars if you add in all the court costs, prison time, property damage, child welfare and treatment. Just the basic cleanup of chemicals costs Oklahoma around $800,000 dollars a year.

That's not even counting the price to society with things like babies being put into washing machines, meth dealers cooking around their children, even giving them the drug or the innocent people killed when labs explode next door.

Police say meth increases other crimes too because 78 percent of addicts steal to support their habit.

After Oregon passed its law, the state saw the biggest drop in violent crime in the country.

"A dramatic, almost unbelievable amount of peripheral crimes come as a component of stopping the sale or controlling the sale of pseudoephedrine," Scott Walton, Rogers County Sheriff, said.

Meth labs dropped dramatically in Oklahoma in 2004 when a law moved pseudoephedrine behind the counter and required people to show an ID and sign for it.

Two things have caused it to go up again. One is the new pop bottle method of making meth that makes much smaller amounts at a time.

"Northeast Oklahoma is very high on the charts for pop bottle clandestine lab," Sheriff Walton said.

Smurfing is the other reason. That's when several people go to pharmacies to buy the legal amount and sometimes, pool it together.

Smurfers often use fake ID's, which makes the state database less effective. Oregon says it's new law eliminated smurfing, plus they say there's been little doctor shopping or public outcry.

State Representative Fred Jordan voted against the law for now, saying he's not convinced it will be a great as police think, beause Oklahoma has a huge prescription drug problem, which proves addicts can get what they want, whether it's prescription or not.

He's worried about personal rights, too much government interference and the inconvenience it would be for law abiding citizens.

Police say doctors can write prescriptions for five refills at a time, which means two doctor's visits a year.

The bill did pass out of committee and goes to a house vote next.