Narcotics Agents Deal with Evolving Threat as Meth Production Shifts to Mexico

Dealing with the production of illegal narcotics is a difficult task for federal law enforcement officials. Even if production can be limited or stopped altogether, addiction keeps demand high and can push people to find and develop alternative ways to access addictive substances.

Officers in Midwestern states are experiencing this now after seeing success limiting the sales of certain cold medicines. Many cold medicines contain ingredients that are a key part of making meth. Over the past decade, states like Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, have all enacted new laws that limit the sales of these medicines and make it more difficult for meth labs to get their hands on the materials they need.

Officials in these states have seen a decline in meth lab seizures as a result, with some reporting as much as a 48 percent decline in seizures. While this indicates that meth production is down in the United States, it has not necessarily impacted drug usage.

“What we’re hearing throughout the Midwest from our colleagues is they’re all seeing meth labs drop, but it’s critical to note that no state is saying meth use is down” said Mark Woodward of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

Part of this is also due to the development of new meth making techniques from external sources. Meth coming from Mexican Cartels has been found to contain a chemical called phenylacetone that was a common part of making meth in the 1960’s and 70’s. The chemical is banned in the U.S. but readily available in Mexico. Mexican cartels have switched back to using phenylacetone allowing them to produce a cheaper form of meth, which has flooded the U.S. market. Tennessee, the state that most often reports the most lab seizures in the U.S., has reported a significant influx of Mexican Meth.

Drug enforcement agents across the country have won a significant victory by limiting the sales of crucial ingredients in the development of meth, but if they are going to put an end to the stranglehold the drug has on some U.S. citizens they will now have to combat the influx of drugs from Mexican cartels as well.