The North Carolina Department of Justice recently released statistics ranking Lincoln County among the top 10 counties in the state with the highest surge in meth lab busts from 2012 to 2013.
With 19 labs that State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agents processed and cleaned up across the county last year, Lincoln ranked No. 9, according to an NCDOJ press release issued Thursday morning.
SBI agents responded to only six meth labs in Lincoln County in 2012 and four in 2011, the NCDOJ website showed.
Wilkes County led the state in meth labs busts in 2013 (50), followed by Onslow (46) and Anson (30).
The only agency across the state adequately trained to disassemble meth labs, the release said, the SBI employs seven total agents who handle meth incidents full-time; additional agents assist with labs on an as-needed basis, handling other types of assignments during their daily work.
In addition to some counties enduring noticeable escalations in meth busts through December, the state’s total year-end number also rose, with the SBI encountering 100 more incidents in 2013 compared to the previous year, the release said.
Statistics showed an escalation of 460 labs in 2012 to 561 last year.
The state total has grown each year since 2007, when law enforcement agencies uncovered 157 labs, NCDOJ officials said.
More than 80 percent of busts in 2013 involved one-pot labs, state officials said.
One-pot labs can be assembled easily and the meth cooked quickly, using accessible non-prescription medications and household products such as lye, alcohol and drainage cleaner. As a result, the method has been on the rise.
However, the risks involved could prove deadly from potential fires or explosions. Additional possible injuries include severe burns, nausea, lung irritation and kidney trouble, in some cases, the NCDOJ website warned.
Commonly known by street users as “crank” or “ice,” meth’s effects last longer than other substances including cocaine, state officials said.
Whether smoked, snorted, eaten or injected, the stimulant has the potential to hook a person from the first use, causing side effects such as lack of sleep and paranoid and aggressive behavior, the NCDOJ website revealed.
Lincoln County drug investigators said they always maintain safety precautions when responding to incidents involving methamphetamine, suiting up in masks and full-body wear anytime they process an area with labs or precursor materials. A deputy will also guard the crime scene until SBI agents arrive to assist local officers.
In some cases, the threat of rain has prompted officers to call local fire agencies to the scene for fear that a mixture of water and meth ingredients could spark a blaze.
Perhaps one of the most common components of a meth lab is pseudoephedrine, a common cold medicine ingredient, state officials said.
In order to cut down on the number of meth users and cooks, state pharmacies have implemented the NPLEx system, which tracks customers who purchase products with the particular ingredient.
The system, which allows individuals to buy a maximum of two packages of pseudoephedrine products at one time, and three per month, NCDOJ officials said, can also track people’s purchases outside North Carolina.
Pharmacies in 23 states use NPLEx, state officials said, for the purpose of cracking down on “smurfing” meth users — individuals who attempt to gain surplus amounts of pseudoephedrine by spacing out their purchases across a number of businesses.
Since last month, when harsher state legislation against the potent drug went into effect, convicted meth users can now be charged with a felony offense if caught buying pseudoephedrine products.
While NCDOJ calculated 19 Lincoln County meth busts in 2013, county Sheriff’s Office investigators said they responded to 22 incidents.
For additional information on the implications of methamphetamine or a county-by-county listing of stats in recent years, visit ncdoj.gov.