Thursday, August 24, 2000

Possible meth lab found

Drug grows in Midwest popularity

By Jane Prendergast

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The drug considered by federal authorities to be the fastest-growing threat in the country may have shown up again this week in Greater Cincinnati.

        Covington police on Tuesday found what they think was a lab where people made methamphetamine, an increasingly popular drug that offers cheaper and longer highs than cocaine. If police are right, it would be the second lab found in Covington since March and at least the third in the Tristate in six months.

        Authorities have predicted for years that meth, also called ice and crank, would spread from border states to small towns and rural areas throughout the Midwest. That influx is bolstered by increased local meth-making, as more people realize components to make the drug are relatively easy to get.

        “It's here,” said Covington Police Lt. Col. Bill Dorsey. “It's definitely here.”

        Covington officers found the possible lab at about 11 a.m. Tuesday after a neighbor near an apartment building at Pike and Hermes streets spotted a duffel bag outside. The neighbor, thinking the bag was lost property, called police.

        The responding officer noticed a foul smell, Lt. Col. Dorsey said, and looked inside the bag to find a canister investigators now think held anhydrous ammonia. The chemical is one of meth's key ingredients.

        Three people were questioned, but officials in the Cincinnati office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration could not be reached for comment Wednesday on whether charges had been filed.

        Nationally, arrests for methamphetamine have risen quickly since the early 1990s. In 1998, the DEA alone made 7,587 arrests, up from fewer than 1,900 in 1993. Lab seizures by the DEA increased from 263 in 1994 to 1,627 in 1998.In 1998, the latest figures available, 12 Ohio labs were seized by the DEA. Two were seized in Indiana and none in Kentucky.

        Chronic meth abusers develop symptoms similar to a schizophrenic's, including paranoia and psychosis.


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