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'Mexican ice' fuels drug trade
STAR-TELEGRAM ^ | Feb. 19, 2006 | JACK DOUGLAS JR.

Posted on 02/19/2006 2:42:36 PM PST by Dubya

Sherry Janes knows a methamphetamine addict when she sees one. She recognizes the despair in their eyes and understands the quiver in their voice, reminding her of the days -- the years -- when she was hooked.

A recovering drug addict who now works with substance-abuse patients at a Wichita Falls clinic, Janes said she is astonished by the type of meth now on the streets, a much purer and more dangerous form than was available when she was shooting up.

"There is no way I could have been a methamphetamine addict for 13 years with the dope they're using now," said Janes, 48, who recently celebrated her 18th year of sobriety.

She said she is certain that she would be dead.

Local, state and federal authorities say the methamphetamine problem in Texas, both trafficking and consumption, has reached epidemic proportions, even as a new state law is making it more difficult to buy common cold medicines used by meth "cookers" to make the drug.

"We've classified it as our most significant drug trade right now," said Pat O'Burke, deputy narcotics commander for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Along with the addiction, O'Burke said, there is plenty of "collateral damage."

Some of that damage:

Investigators cite one case after another in which young children have been rescued from homes where meth kitchens spew toxic fumes, pose the threat of an explosion and attract unsavory characters.

On Thursday, four Dallas police officers were wounded in a shooting after they tried to serve search warrants on a suspected meth-trafficking ring.

In early December, Stephen Heard, in a jailhouse interview with several media outlets, including the Star-Telegram, said he had taken methamphetamine the day he fatally shot Fort Worth police officer Henry "Hank" Nava in a confrontation.

Rise in deaths

Authorities say they do not know for sure how many people in the state die each year from a drug that produces a dazzling high, followed by a spiraling drop into depression and dependency.

Experts are nearly certain, however, that the mortality rate is rising.

Jane Carlisle Maxwell, a research professor at the University of Texas at Austin's School of Social Work, said in an article written for the university that confirmed meth-related deaths have steadily risen in the state during the past several years.

Maxwell wrote that in 1997, 17 deaths were directly attributed to the use of either methamphetamine or, to a much smaller degree, amphetamines. In 2004, the death toll had reached 99.

The new state law has sharply cut the number of meth labs in the state, officials say.

But it has done nothing to curb Texans' appetite for the drug.

Many of them are turning to a more potent form, known as "Mexican ice," that is being transported over the Texas-Mexico border in record amounts, narcotics investigators and drug counselors say.

'Meth epidemic'

"We have a meth epidemic right now," said Marcy Thomas, an administrator of substance-abuse counseling at the Helen Farabee Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center in Wichita Falls.

The Texas Department of State Health Services allocated $84 million in 2004 and nearly $91 million in 2005 and has budgeted $94 million for this fiscal year to help pay for the treatment and counseling of indigent people who have fallen victim to substance abuse.

As many as 75 percent of those cases involve meth, experts say.

But at a time when state and federal officials are acknowledging a real problem in Texas, police are expressing dismay that the state is planning next month to cut off federal grants for drug task forces.

State officials concede that there is not enough money to go around because federal funding for law enforcement has dropped more than 57 percent the past three years.

Much of what is now available, they add, needs to be sent to the Mexican border to beef up efforts to stem the flow of drugs and to watch for illegal immigrants and potential terrorists.

Sgt. Kim Graham, commander of the Deep East Texas Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, said the unit will shut down at the end of March after being told by Gov. Rick Perry's office that methamphetamine kitchens are no longer a top priority in her area.

"We do have local meth labs in East Texas and for some reason the governor of Texas thinks we don't. I don't know what people here are going to do," Graham said.

'Mexican ice'

The meth market is also booming in North Texas, in counties along the Red River border with Oklahoma. Since summer 2003, the North Texas Regional Drug Enforcement Task Force has made 425 arrests, seized nearly $40 million in drugs -- including $21.8 million in methamphetamine -- and busted 116 drug labs, its records show.

Forty percent of the meth kitchens in the region have dried up since authorities began monitoring the sale of cold medicines, but Mexican ice is "definitely on the increase," said Jim Whitehead, commander of the Wichita Falls-based task force.

Despite the task force's impressive caseload and the continuing threat of an even more dangerous form of meth, the unit will be forced to shut down unless local government entities pick up the costs, Whitehead said.

The funding problems stem from a severe reduction in what the state gets in federal law enforcement grants, from $33 million in 2004 to $14 million this year, according to Rachael Novier, a spokeswoman for Perry.

It only makes sense, Novier added, to devote much of the federal funds to the Mexican border, considering the problems there.

"If we can reduce the amount of drugs that come across our border, reduce the ability of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations to operate in Texas and bring their poison into Texas, then we are having an impact all across Texas by focusing resources along the border," she said.

Cold medicines

In August, a new Texas law required stores and pharmacies to begin monitoring and restricting the sale of cold medicines containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or norpseudoephedrine.

For years, cookers have used those ingredients to make methamphetamine through the "Nazi method," resulting in a diluted concoction developed by the Germans during World War II to keep their diminishing troops awake -- and wired. The law prohibits large purchases of the cold medicines and requires businesses to keep them behind counters or "in a locked case within 30 feet and in a direct line of sight" of an employee.

Local, state and federal authorities say they have seen a significant drop in "mom-and-pop" meth labs in the state since the law was enacted. One DPS report says state police raided 264 methamphetamine kitchens last year -- a 63 percent drop from the 717 labs found in 2004.

But while local meth labs were closing down, the trafficking of the stronger and more addictive Mexican ice was crossing the border at an ever-increasing pace, authorities concede.

Between Oct. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, federal agents protecting the border seized 1,215 pounds of meth, most of it "ice," a 42 percent increase from the 858 pounds confiscated the year before, according to records with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

An additional 507 pounds of the drug was confiscated between October and the end of January, more than double the amount seized during the same period a year earlier, agents say.

Mom-and-pop labs

"The law did away with the mom-and-pop labs but caused an increase in the more pure stuff coming over the border," said Trino Diaz, a 16-year agent and chief officer of the customs agency's port of entry near the South Texas border town of Hidalgo.

Montague County Sheriff Bill Keating, who is angry that the drug task force in his area may be closing down, said police and deputies still see caravans of "meth heads" looking for a place to score.

While Keating wants even tougher laws, he believes the one that makes it harder to turn a simple cold pill into meth is a good start.

"It's good to have this law," he said. "It's good that people are beginning to recognize [meth] is the scourge of Middle America right now."

IN THE KNOW

Meth in Texas

Seizures of home drug labs have dropped from a high of 803 in 2003 to 264 in 2005. The decline has been attributed to a new law that makes it harder to obtain common cold medicines often used to make methamphetamine.

The Texas Highway Patrol is making its largest number of meth seizures along the Interstate 40 corridor, where the drug is coming in from other Western states, primarily Arizona, that share a border with Mexico.

Much of the meth traffic is directed toward the Dallas-Fort Worth area, then continues toward Oklahoma City and Missouri.

Federal law enforcement agencies report that 80 percent of the meth used in the United States is made in Mexico.

Mexican manufacturers are buying "massive quantities" of pseudoephedrine tablets, primarily from China, Panama and India, to make meth in "very controlled, high-quality labs."

SOURCE: Texas Department of Public Safety Jack Douglas Jr., (817) 390-7700 jld@star-telegram.com


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Political Humor/Cartoons
KEYWORDS: aliens; meth; mexicanice; mexico; texas; wodlist

SPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAM/TORIN HALSEY

Caseworker Sherry Janes, left, and administrator Marcy Thomas treat addicts at the Helen Farabee center in Wichita Falls. "We have a meth epidemic," Thomas said.

1 posted on 02/19/2006 2:42:37 PM PST by Dubya
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To: Dubya

Egads, I waited in line 30 minutes the other day just to buy 10 little ol' tablets of Sudafed. Had to give them my license, left arm, one kid, and sign away my soul. Three days later and I'm still sick.


2 posted on 02/19/2006 2:50:47 PM PST by mtbopfuyn (Legality does not dictate morality... Lavin)
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To: mtbopfuyn
An answer is to ban the manufacture of psuedoephedren. There are 9 labs worldwide that make the cold medicine. PBS ran a special last week on Frontline about meth and it had some real interesting points. The pharmaceutical (sp) companies lobbied to not have the law banning cold meds passed. I think the Frontline episode may be still available on line.
3 posted on 02/19/2006 3:34:42 PM PST by Burf (I didnt leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.)
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To: Burf

You think they should ban the making of cold medicine? Are you nuts?


4 posted on 02/19/2006 4:30:47 PM PST by conservative cat
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To: Burf; mtbopfuyn

It is overkill to rake every citizen over the coals just because they want their sinuses to dry up. On the other hand it is true that a lot of trailer-trash has gotten into this meth-lab business while the Mexican cartels seek to dominate it.

We will never minimize this epidemic if we continue to allow relatively porous borders. Their monstrous power (enabled by marijuana and cocaine users) redraw the map as far as national bounderies are concerned. The users of these illicit products need to kick their monkeys and get with the patriotic program, as their bad habits are only spreading corruption throughout all of our government systems.

Grow your own or reform yourselves, drug users...stop sending money out of our country.


5 posted on 02/19/2006 4:32:53 PM PST by NewRomeTacitus
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To: NewRomeTacitus

I don't think we can depend on the drug users to solve this issue. We have to close our borders now. There is a war going on on the Texas border with the drug lords right now. Not to mention the MS 13 gangs that have spread throughout our country.


6 posted on 02/19/2006 4:39:59 PM PST by RichRepublican (Some days you're the windshield--some days you're the bug.)
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To: Dubya

Close the borders NOW and deter tunnel Rats.

Force users to 1 year of quality mandatory rehab/work for 1st offenses.

Kill dealers.


7 posted on 02/19/2006 4:43:09 PM PST by DoNotDivide (Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.)
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To: RichRepublican

I suspect you know I wasn't intimating that drug addicts have much say in our security. I was pointing out how their weakness is the primary foot-in-the-door for the drug traffickers.

I've been addicted to drugs and beat them. Then I beat the adherence to Republicans who pretended to represent conservatism. Now I'm hearing the big sucking sound Perot warned us about and am honing my sword and body for a showdown for America's future. It's lonely out here but I'm comforted knowing that I'm right.


8 posted on 02/19/2006 5:12:14 PM PST by NewRomeTacitus
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To: Burf
I cough and sneeze towards your solution.
9 posted on 02/19/2006 5:17:42 PM PST by kstewskis (Buy Danish!)
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To: NewRomeTacitus

Good on you for beating drugs. Keep up the fight.


10 posted on 02/19/2006 5:24:20 PM PST by RichRepublican (Some days you're the windshield--some days you're the bug.)
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To: Burf

Would that stop all of the production, or just make it more expensive?


11 posted on 02/19/2006 5:50:31 PM PST by Nova
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To: Dubya
This can't be! They promised us if we signed away our access to cold medicine, then those gosh darned drug users wouldn't be able to get high! We better sign away some more rights. Because I know that I spend most of my time worrying that someone out there might be getting high right now. We need to rescind the Constitution completely and dedicate the entire resources of the federal government to preventing people from using drugs.

First, we need cameras in everyones' houses, and everyone should have to submit to a random blood test three times daily to make sure they are not high. If you don't agree with this, then you must have something to hide. You must be a dirty, low down drug user who just wants to get high.
12 posted on 02/19/2006 5:58:42 PM PST by mysterio
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To: conservative cat
"Are you nuts?" Depends on who you ask.

On the program I referenced the DEA person compared it too the Quaalude problem we had years ago. He stated that the ban dried up the supply and ergo the problem.

The people running the labs in Mexico are buying the pseudephedrin by the ton. That is why the drug busts in this country are now of pounds of meth with street values of sometimes a million dollars.

Another problem the film revealed was the correlation of the availability of high grade meth and the number of addicts. The better the quality, the more addicts.

I would urge anyone interested in the meth problem to view the PBS program. It provided some good information on the problem. We live in a rural area and have had 3 busts within a 5 mile area of our home.
13 posted on 02/19/2006 6:02:15 PM PST by Burf (I didnt leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.)
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To: Burf

One other point I forgot. The drug companies can make cold pills without pseudoephedrin. It costs a little more, but it can be done.


14 posted on 02/19/2006 6:04:40 PM PST by Burf (I didnt leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.)
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To: Burf
Another problem the film revealed was the correlation of the availability of high grade meth and the number of addicts. The better the quality, the more addicts.

In other words, putting the local meth labs out of business has resulting in high-purity meth being imported thru our porous borders from Mexico, and this much purer meth creates more addicts, plus producing high profits for the Mexican drug gangs.

It seems like we're going at this backwards. When ANYBODY could easily make meth, it was low-grade, relatively unaddictive, and had such a low profit margin that there wasn't enough money in it to kill people over

15 posted on 02/19/2006 6:12:20 PM PST by SauronOfMordor (A planned society is most appealing to those with the hubris to think they will be the planners)
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To: RichRepublican
What doesn't slay me outright makes me a more efficient killer (hah hah..just having fun.) Addictions are nothing compared to the evil of citizens led to believing that supporting lawlessness is necessary for our overall progress. I'm fighting this perception that the press is pushing that we should accept the illegals on the basis of brotherly humanitarionism.

It insults all of the honest immigrants doing their best to achieve citizenship legitimately. I'm quite sick about how these valuable potential citizens are constantly screwed over for the sake of illiterate worker drones who will vote Democrat for the rest of their existance.

16 posted on 02/19/2006 6:27:21 PM PST by NewRomeTacitus
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To: Burf
The drug companies can make cold pills without pseudoephedrin.

By every account I've heard, the alternatives are less effective.

17 posted on 02/19/2006 7:03:30 PM PST by Know your rights (The modern enlightened liberal doesn't care what you believe as long as you don't really believe it.)
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To: Dubya
It's not the freakin' drugs.

It's the freakin' idiots who take the drugs.

They know it's illegal. They know it kills. They are freakin' idiots if they think drugs won't kill them.

Recidivism for Meth users is 96%. Four people out of one hundred who use Meth will successfully stay off the stuff. The other ninety-six will be unable to shake the habit.

The Bigger Question is: WHY do people use illegal drugs? Answer that one and there will be no more drug abuse.
18 posted on 02/19/2006 8:34:34 PM PST by HighlyOpinionated (In Memory of Crockett Nicolas, hit and run in the prime of his Cocker Spaniel life, 9/3/05.)
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To: Dubya
Another idiot reporter gets the story and the headline wrong.

The drug doesn't 'fuel' the trade. It's the money you frigging moron.

(The reporter, not you Dubya)

L

19 posted on 02/19/2006 8:37:42 PM PST by Lurker (In God I trust. Everybody else shows me their hands.)
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To: SauronOfMordor
"It seems like we're going at this backwards. When ANYBODY could easily make meth, it was low-grade, relatively unaddictive, and had such a low profit margin that there wasn't enough money in it to kill people over"

It wasn't relatively unaddictive, and it wasn't really low grade potency wise. People can cook up relatively pure stuff in their kitchens. I'm a public defender and I've handled a lot of meth cases. I see all the crime lab reports where they test the purity of the drugs. The stuff coming out of local labs was strong. The ice is strong, but not really stronger than the stuff from local labs to any appreciable degree. In fact, a lot of the ice is weak, low potency stuff. All ice is is regular meth that has gone through an additional chemical process to "glass it up." If they glass up garbage, it's still garbage. And almost all of it gets cut before it reaches consumers, whether it's ice or regular meth. I for one am glad we have the laws putting pseudoehedrine behind pharmacy counters. The number of meth labs has gone way down, and those that are busted are smaller producers than the ones before. Far less people are getting cheap or free dope now that they have to actually pay full price for it. Before for every one of the dozens of labs we had operating in our small rural county at any given time there were four or five or more people who were either cooking it or helping out in the process who were able to stay high pretty much constantly on huge doses of almost free dope. These people tended to be our biggest problem meth users, and a lot of people were getting caught up in this who probably never would have been able to get anywhere near as much dope as they were able to get helping cousin Bubba cook it. I think a lot of people were doing enough dope to become addicted because they had a family member or friend who got them involved in the cooking process and introduced them to a supply of dope that could be had for the price of a little help in the cooking process, whether it by providing a place to cook a batch, or going from store to store picking up pseudoephedrine, or doing things like hanging around where the dope is cooked and scraping red phosphourous off of matchbook strikepads for use on the next batch. We're already seeing far less meth lab cases and a lot less of the really crazy cases where people did crazy things because they had been up for days on end without sleep tweaking on their "free" dope. In the long run I think we'll see less become addicted because far less will have easy access to virtually free dope.
20 posted on 02/21/2006 12:42:30 AM PST by TKDietz
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To: Dubya
Local, state and federal authorities say they have seen a significant drop in "mom-and-pop" meth labs in the state since the law was enacted. One DPS report says state police raided 264 methamphetamine kitchens last year -- a 63 percent drop from the 717 labs found in 2004.

But while local meth labs were closing down, the trafficking of the stronger and more addictive Mexican ice was crossing the border at an ever-increasing pace, authorities concede.

Basic 'cause and effect' in that if you close down businesses, either legal or illegal, locally, those business with be outsourced outside of the country.

21 posted on 02/21/2006 1:11:59 AM PST by Paul C. Jesup
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To: HighlyOpinionated

"WHY do people use illegal drugs? Answer that one and there will be no more drug abuse."

Idiocy and cheap thrills.

The answer is bullets, lot of them for dealers and users.


22 posted on 02/21/2006 1:16:52 AM PST by Lauretij2
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