Area agencies learn about methamphetamines

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Approximately 40 law enforcement officers, firefighters and other emergency services workers spent part of the day Monday hitting the books.

When they completed their 4-hour course, they came away with an in-depth knowledge of a dangerous and rapidly growing problem - methamphetamine use and manufacturing.

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive drug that is made by combining collections of other drugs, such as over-the-counter cold medicines and regular household chemicals and "cooking" them to produce a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder that can be injected, snorted, smoked or placed on food and ingested.

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Ohio Bureau of

Criminal Investigation special agent Dennis Lowe, who was instructor for the class, said the course was meant to make emergency services workers aware of what meth is, how to identify it and how to protect themselves and the greater community when they encounter a meth lab.

"They learn what methamphetamine is, how it got here in Ohio (and) what extent of a problem we have," Lowe said. "We talk about the physiological effect of meth and the manufacturing process we're seeing here in Ohio.

"It's extremely hazardous. We're talking about amateur chemists using improvised equipment (to make) improvised chemicals without a real understanding of what they're doing."

The statistics about meth labs are frightening. In 2000, authorities busted 18 meth labs across the state. Last year, that figure skyrocketed to 271, a 15-fold increase.

Lowe said he estimates that police officers in the state will close 400 meth labs this year. Why the giant-sized increases?

"It's easy to make, the items used are all available in the community at retail stores and this drug has powerful addictive properties," Lowe said. "A gram of cocaine will produce a high that lasts a couple of hours. The same dose of methamphetamine lasts 8 to 10 hours."

Adding to the problem is the fact that meth can be manufactured just about anywhere - in kitchens, even in vans that can be moved from place to place to avoid detection.

The class was sponsored locally by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office and the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office.

"We know that meth is on the increase, especially in rural areas," Sexton said. "We know that we have more (labs) here than we're seeing. We hope that what is learned in this training will help us identify and locate such places."

In November 2002, local and state authorities raided a house in the 2000 block of North Third Avenue after neighbors called police about a strong odor emanating from a house in their neighborhood. That incident became Lawrence County's first meth lab raid. Charles Hobart, the occupant of the house, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to drug-related charges. He is serving a 4-year prison sentence.