After a dramatic decline over several years, the availability of methamphetamine – a highly addictive stimulant “cooked” with chemicals from over-the-counter cold medications – began to creep up in 2008, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The reversal, reported by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), worries law enforcement agencies. Some 17,000 meth labs were discovered in 2004, tucked inside homes, barns, and vehicles. Among the dangerous byproducts: toxic waste, explosions, theft, and other crimes to support addiction. In 2005, Congress passed restrictions on key ingredients ephedrine and pseudoephedrine found in cold and allergy medicines. It helped: during 2007, agents found just 5,910 labs. That year, Mexico banned all imports containing either chemical in an effort to curb exports by large-scale traffickers. The move helped create methamphetamine shortages in many parts of the country during 2007 and the first part of 2008.
Several indicators suggest that since then, domestic production has increased to fill the void. Authorities say more small-time cooks are sidestepping federal regulations to obtain what they need to manufacture the drug. The per-gram price of pure methamphetamine fell more than 30 percent, from $267.74 to $184.09, between the last quarter of 2007 and the third quarter of this year, says the Drug Enforcement Administration. Lab seizures quickened in many areas. The curbs on buying key ingredients are commonly bypassed through “smurfing.” Small groups who know two or three cooks travel from store to store, buying the maximum allowable amount of ingredients. Then they trade medications for finished methamphetamine or cash.