Oklahoma one of the nation's leaders in methamphetamine


Monday, October 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma has become one of the nation's leaders in methamphetamine labs, arrests, addicts and cases, and no drug treatment or police tactic has stemmed the tide.

"We don't know what caused it, why Oklahoma," said John Duncan, a chief agent at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. "Somewhere, the information became more available."

Statistics show that meth cases have increased more than 8,000 percent since 1994, which comes as a surprise since state officials thought they had the problem under control after an outbreak the previous decade.

According to a 1992 report from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Control, Oklahoma ranked fourth nationally in the number of meth laboratories seized each year in the 1980s. The number declined, partly because of the passage of state and federal laws regulating the chemicals needed to make it.

But more than the availability of the chemicals, recipes to make methamphetamine may have triggered the latest craze.

"It used to be the recipes were secretly guarded," said Robert Surovec, assistant special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration's Oklahoma City branch. "It used to cost thousands of dollars to get a recipe. Now it's on the Internet."

The increase in usage coincides with the emergence of the World Wide Web. In 1994, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 263 meth labs, but that figure climbed to 879 in 1996 and 1,627 in 1998.

Meth numbers also indicate the drug has yet to spread to the East Coast. Cities such as Oklahoma City and Omaha, Neb., have worse meth problems than New York City or Detroit.

According to the DEA, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Des Moines, Iowa, Las Vegas and Sacramento, Calif., have far more males testing positive for meth when arrested than Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and Miami, Fla.

Oklahoma City reported that 8 percent of males arrested tested positive for meth in 1998, a greater percentage than Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and Miami combined.

Meth accounts for nearly 90 percent of all drug cases in the Midwest, according to the Koch Crime Institute.

Oklahoma ranks in the top five in almost every meth category.

Oklahomans are 42 percent above the national average in all age groups for meth use, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reports.

The state medical examiner's office also reports the number of death cases testing positive for meth has been higher than for cocaine for the past three years. The office also reports meth is found in more cases of homicides and motor vehicle accidents screened for drugs.

Officials aren't sure why Oklahoma has become a haven for meth, but one theory is that methamphetamine fits the state's low economic status compared with the rest of the country.

The estimated cost of making meth is $100 an ounce, with a street value of $800 an ounce.

To clean up after a meth lab, the OSBI estimates that it costs an average of $2,000. The OSBI spent $1 million on cleaning services last year.

This year, both the state Legislature and federal government have increased funding to prosecute meth manufacturers.