Meth Madness: Forget Breaking Bad, meth cooks in soda bottles

Mobile meth labs are popping up all over Delaware at alarming rates that could elevate the drug to become as large a problem as heroin.

WDEL's Amy Cherry reports in Part 2 of Meth Madness.

"We have seen steady growth in meth manufacturing."

That's State Police Sergeant Paul Shavack, who tells WDEL methamphetamine-related arrests have exploded in Delaware since 2011.

"Years ago, we would see prescription drugs; we would see marijuana; we would see heroin. Meth wasn't even on the radar screen at that point, but we have seen that increase 260 percent as of 2011 in meth complaints or incidents," says Shavack.

Taking the place of elaborate, cumbersome "Breaking Bad" style meth labs are easy and convenient two liter soda bottles filled with volatile chemicals.

"Toluene, starting fluid, brake fluid to extract that meth from the pseudoephedrine that's in the cooking process. If too much oxygen is introduced, then there's an explosion with a fireball that causes injuries and damage.

Though there hasn't been a major meth lab explosion in Delaware in years, these shake and bake operations have popped up all over Kent and Sussex Counties.

"In predominantly rural areas, it's harder for detection down there as compared to the concentration of population up here. You'd be able to spot this person carrying around a two liter bottler shaking it or doing whatever they are doing with it," says Shavack.

You could walk right by one of these dangerous, odorless one-pot meth labs and not even know it.

"We've experienced backpacks, cooking in backpacks, cooking in trunks of vehicles, walking with it down rural roads in that area in Kent and Sussex County," Shavack says.

State Police report the number of meth labs going from practically non-existent in 2011 to a dozen in Kent County in 2012. This year, the landscape has shifted with seven meth labs in Sussex compared to just four in Kent County. While the majority of meth labs are downstate, County Police say they busted 0 in New Castle County in 2012 and five this year.

"We've seen that spike because the word's getting out there how easy it is to make now, how convenient it is to make with a two liter bottle. You no longer need this big, elaborate laboratory. You could walk down the street and cook meth," Shavack says.

Since you now have to show a driver's license to get pseudoephedrine so-called "smurfers" get together to purchase Sudafed and other cold medicine that can be used to manufacture meth.

Shavack says on the streets meth goes for anywhere from 50 to 100 dollars per gram with most of those home-grown meth makers also using the drug and much of their profits going towards supporting their habit.

The drug is far cheaper than heroin, a problem law enforcement has called an epidemic.

"We look at the numbers as compared to heroin and marijuana incidents or complaints or arrests, and it's no where near the proportion of those yet," says Shavack.

The keyword: yet.

Tune in to WDEL's Delaware Morning News Wednesday for Part 3 of Meth Madness to hear more about the meth labs that could be hiding right in your own neighborhood and the hazards they pose to the environment and communities.

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