Kentucky sets record with more than 1,000 meth labs in 2010

bestep@herald-leader.comFebruary 8, 2011 

Police found a record number of methamphetamine labs in Kentucky in 2010, a fact sure to be part of the debate over requiring a prescription for cold and allergy medicine that people use in making the highly addictive drug.

There were 1,080 meth-lab incidents in the state last year, state police said Tuesday in a news release.

The number of actual labs was likely much higher because people often use more than one small bottle at a time to produce meth.

In Laurel County earlier this year, for instance, police found at one house 95 bottles that had been used in making meth, but that was counted as one meth-lab incident, police said.

The number of incidents in 2010 was much higher than the 741 recorded in 2009.

Jefferson County had the highest number of labs in 2010, at 154, followed by Laurel County with 113, Warren County at 70, Barren County at 57 and Hardin County with 53, state police said.

The waste from the labs is considered hazardous. Police spent $2.9 million in 2010 to investigate and clean up the labs, state police said.

They also have toxic fumes and can blow up. Three children were treated for chemical burns after state police found a meth lab in Leslie County earlier this week, according to the release.

The number of labs is up in part because people have found simpler ways to produce the drug in the small homemade labs, which often are made up of a plastic soft-drink bottle.

People also evade restrictions on purchases of an ingredient used in making meth, called pseudoephedrine. It is found in common cold and allergy medication.

There is a limit on how much pseudoephedrine a person can buy in a month.

However, meth "cookers' get addicts and others to buy pills for them, then use a chemical process to convert the ingredient to meth.

Narcotics officers and others are pushing measures in the legislature this year aimed at driving down the number of labs.

Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 281 would require a prescription for medication containing pseudoephedrine.

The number of meth labs in Oregon and Mississippi plummeted after those states began requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine.

Supporters of the prescription proposal hope new information on the rise in meth labs in Kentucky will help "drive home what a serious problem this is," said Tommy Loving, director of the Bowling Green — Warren County Drug Task Force.

Opponents argue that requiring a prescription would add to health-care costs and inconvenience people who use certain cold and allergy medicines.

A committee passed SB 45 last week, but it has not been voted on in the full Senate.

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