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Officials say meth problem growing in Oklahoma

BY SONYA COLBERG Published: March 26, 2011

Liquid in a glass flask caught fire in the midst of Stanley Smith's cooking. Then another and another. Flammable liquid spilled across the stovetop, and flames raced up the wall.

His buddies ran screaming around the house in terror while the strung-out Smith dunked sheets in a bathtub of water to smother the fire.

It was just part of the cost of doing business for a methamphetamine cook.

Nothing slowed his pursuit of a constant high. Not fires, not going 30 days without sleep, not shopping at numerous stores to buy dozens of boxes of pseudoephedrine tablets, then methodically popping hundreds of them from bubble packs.

“That's desperation for you,” Smith said. “Or, determination.”

He spent part of his four years in prison learning the latest manufacturing methods. But today he's been drug-free for four years and participates in a prison ministry to turn drug abusers around.

Help needed

Smith said a state bill to require a doctor's prescription to buy tablets containing pseudoephedrine probably would slow meth cooking.

“Do anything to stop it,” he said. “Ban it.”

He said some drug abusers may find other means of getting pseudoephedrine to make meth, if tablets become prescription-only, but many won't go to the trouble of doing that.

The bill is dead now, but the prescription requirement could be revived this year as an amendment to other legislation, said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, co-author of the bill. But more likely, the bill will be reintroduced next year, he said. Opposition to the bill has come from pharmaceutical companies, who say it would be a hardship for people with colds and allergies.

Meth deaths and labs have been rising since 2008 on a parallel path. Oklahoma agents last year found a total of 818 of the “shake-and-bake” or “one-pot” labs, compared with 743 in 2009.

Autopsy reports show meth overdose deaths rose to 89 last year from 61 the year before. More autopsy reports from last year will continue to trickle in, according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

Cox said the drug abuse problems and injuries he sees as an emergency room physician are staggering. He's haunted by the people with telltale bad teeth and health problems, and the kids in foster care because their parents are in drug rehab or jail for methamphetamine use and, oftentimes, child neglect.

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