While a method of methamphetamine production not seen since the 1980s has resurfaced and seized the Tulsa area with reports of all-time high busts, Oklahoma City police have yet to see a single instance of the "shake-and-bake” method. "We think the discrepancy is just that it has not made it here yet,” Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman Mark Woodward said. "But it’s probably coming sooner than we’d like it to.” Tulsa’s previous high for meth busts was 214 in 2003, but so far this year the number of busts is 216, Tulsa police said. State drug officials are scrambling to find a solution before the newest drug crisis expands across the rest of the state. Woodward admits that in an effort to stay one step ahead in the war on drugs, there is already talk of making one of the primary meth ingredients, pseudoephedrine, available by prescription only.
Changing methodsIn the late 1980s, Oklahoma ranked fourth in the nation for meth labs seized each year, the bureau reports. To fight the problem, state and federal lawmakers decided to regulate the chemicals used to cook methamphetamine. In a few years, a new meth recipe hit the streets using decongestant pills containing pseudoephedrine, and according to information from the bureau, meth busts skyrocketed again to record levels. The cold-pill method usually required a lab that involved flammable liquids, dozens of pills and an open flame. Meth cooks often worked in rural areas to hide the foul odor. In 2004, Oklahoma passed laws that made it more difficult to buy large quantities of pseudoephedrine, and meth lab busts dropped sharply. But then the shake-and-bake, or "one-pot” method began to resurface, which Woodward said bypasses cold pill restrictions because it requires fewer pills. The formula involves a two-liter soda bottle, a handful of cold pills and some noxious chemicals, he said. The drug is cooked by a chemical reaction when the bottle is shaken. "It’s not a new recipe,” he said. "We saw it back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But it surfaced again in the fall of last year in the Tulsa area.”
Is it already here?Tulsa began seeing its first recent shake-and-bake meth cases about 14 months ago. Tulsa police officer Jason Willingham said his department has seen more than 190 busts involving the one-pot method since January. Oklahoma City Police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said police in Oklahoma City just haven’t seen any evidence of the method. "I never thought we’d be here in September, and it hasn’t reached over there, yet,” Willingham said. "You can basically go to Walmart and buy everything you need for this.” Tulsa has had 11 meth-related deaths this year, he said. Two of those involved exploding fires from the one-pot method. Across the rest of Oklahoma, Woodward said, there has been only sporadic evidence of the shake-and-bake production method, with confirmed cases in places like Lawton and Ardmore. Woodward said it has remained clustered in the Tulsa area. But he also admits the problem could be much more serious than police know. "It may be here in Oklahoma City already, and we just don’t know it yet,” Woodward said.