New Meth Method Causing More Fires

Wednesday, March 11th 2009, 5:54 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Investigators say the increased number of meth lab-related fires is due to drug cooks having come up with a new way to make methamphetamine.  The old way took several hours and required a kitchen full of chemicals.  The new method takes 45 minutes and involves only a handful of chemicals.

It's called the shake and bake or one pop method because the chemicals are poured into a pop bottle and then shaken.  The problem is, if they don't release the pressure at the right times, the mixture will explode and start fires that can level entire homes or apartment complexes.

Oklahoma's law that made it illegal to buy more than nine grams of pseudoephedrine a month, drastically cut down on the number of meth labs from more than 214 in Tulsa the year before the law to 51 the year after.

As soon as someone buys more of the cold medicine than allowed, a database alerts the pharmacist.

But, meth cooks have had five years to figure out how to get around that law.  They either go out of state where they can buy as much of the pseudoephedrine as they want or they get several IDs so their in state purchases don't show up in the computer.  Investigators are working one woman with 13 different driver's licenses.

"She goes to 13 different pharmacies, the same day and she could get nine grams from each of those," said David Hale with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

That combined with the shake and bake method means labs are on the rise again.  Not to the level of before, but a big concern, because the new method is so easy and so dangerous.

"You can drive down the street with a pop bottle with chemicals in it and make meth," said David Hale with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

Because the new method of cooking is contained and not out in the open, there are hardly any fumes and that means no real warning sign.

Tulsa County Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Darby says if you see certain items in your neighbor's trash, it's worth a call to police.  Those items can include lithium batteries, cold packs, drain cleaner, pseudoephedrine, aluminum foil and camp fuel.

Deputies are also asking businesses for a heads up if people buying those things together.

"We're not out to busy everyone in town, just trying to get the problems off the street," said Tulsa County Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Darby.

More meth cooks are men, but more users are women, usually between 19 and 30 years old.

About 20% of labs are in cars, 10 % in motels, but the vast majority is in homes and apartments which makes it so dangerous for innocent neighbors.