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Meth labs can pop up anywhere, trooper says

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

State police Cpl. Dennis Ulery said methamphetamine labs have the potential to pop up anywhere because recipes for cooking “crank” or “ice” — some of the street names for the drug — can be easily found on the Internet.

Ulery educated emergency personnel on the fire and explosive hazards of meth labs and the toll the synthetic drug takes on its victims during a presentation this week, sponsored by the Morrell Volunteer Fire Department.

Ulery, who worked as an undercover drug enforcement officer for 17 years in Greensburg, told a crowd of about 50 people that meth labs aren't a huge problem in Fayette and Westmoreland counties at this time.

“But it's just a matter of time before we see it in our area,” he said. “We're seeing it in Erie and Crawford counties. ”

The ingredients, which can be purchased for less than $30, are also available at local pharmacies and grocery stores, he added.

“It's easy for someone who wants to cook meth to walk into a store and buy batteries, cold medicine, iodine, table salt, ammonia, starter fluid, drain cleaner and other products they can use to make meth.”

Ulery said meth labs are extremely easy to assemble and can be located in cars, trailers, homes, garages, barns, hotels or other buildings.

He outlined various methods that are used to produce meth, including the one-pot method that allows meth to be manufactured in plastic bottles.

After discussing methods drug addicts use to produce meth, Ulery outlined the dangers of fires and explosions.

“When the meth is cooking, it's under a lot of pressure,” Ulery said. “If the person who is cooking the meth opens the bottle too quickly, it can cause a fire or an explosion.”

If police discover meth labs in Fayette County, Ulery said fire departments will be contacted for assistance.

“We need to have fire departments present at meth lab scenes because we never know what's going to happen,” he said.

Someone can cook 2.1 to 3.3 grams of meth for as little as $24.25. One gram of the drug sells for about $100 on the street.

“But it's usually not sold on the street,” he said. “Several drug addicts will get together to make the drug. Some of them will visit the pharmacies to purchase the cold medication. There is usually one guy who has the recipe and knows how to make it. He will cook the meth, and the users will share it.”

Ulery said drug addicts who snort or shoot up meth can die because of increased heart rates and body temperatures.

“When I first became an undercover cop 16 or 17 years ago, heroin was the most addictive drug,” he said. “But now meth is actually worse than heroin. Meth has a significant impact on the central nervous system.”

Ulery said meth use can cause euphoria, paranoia, insomnia and loss of appetite, as well as aggressive and violent behavior.

After using meth three times, 90 percent of users will become addicted, according to Ulery.

“Meth gives its users a sense of euphoria that is most related to sex,” he said. “When someone has sex, 5 percent of dopamine is released into the brain. With meth use, there is a 100 percent release of dopamine. Drug addicts will continue to chase that high despite the consequences.”

Ulery said long-term consequences of meth use include fatal kidney and lung diseases, brain and liver damage, premature aging, significant weight loss, mood swings and violent behavior.

“The effects that this drug has on someone's body is devastating, but addicts seek it out because it's so addictive.”

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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