JEFFERSON-While the number of clandestine lab responses has significantly fallen off in recent years, methamphetamine usage in the county is far from dormant, said authorities.
Last year, there was only one clandestine lab response in Ashe County, according to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
Sadly, this is not an indicator in the drop off of drug usage, said the Ashe County Sheriff’s office.
Authorities also say this says more about the changing nature of how meth is produced locally as most local cookers have transitioned from the stay-at-home stationary lab model to the mobile ‘shake and bake’ method, which is easier to conceal, said Ashe County Sheriff James Williams.
Law enforcement officials have previously reported the emergence in North Carolina of meth labs that use the one pot or shake and bake method. Making meth using this process is fast, easy to set up, and produces little evidence or waste for the cook to dispose of, said officials.
Criminals can use this method to make the drug using a plastic soda bottle and a small amount of pseudoephedrine, according to the United States Department of Justice.
Although smaller in capacity, these labs are far from safe and can be potentially just as volatile as evident by an August 2011 explosion when a local man sustained third degree burns to his face and arm after a portable style lab exploded on him at his residence on Tom Fowler Road.
Another trend in meth production is the spread of super labs that can produce more than 10 pounds of meth at a time, said the department.
In some cases, meth is initially processed in Mexico, then transported as a liquid to super labs in the United States for final processing and sale. Officials discovered the first known super lab in North Carolina in 2009, and several have been reported in the Atlanta area, according to law enforcement.
Williams believes that many meth addicts are getting their hands on the illicit drug from trafficking avenues outside the High Country.
The detrimental effects of meth usage can be lasting.
Meth addicts can become violent and paranoid, said the DOJ. They often place booby-traps in their labs, and use surveillance cameras to warn them against investigators.
Additionally, meth labs are prone to fires and explosions, according to a department press release.
Cooking meth produces dangerous byproducts that can cause severe burns, skin and eye irritation, and damage to lungs and kidneys.
Exposure can result in headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death. Under state law, buildings that have been used to make meth have to be decontaminated before they’re safe again, according to the DOJ.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.