Indiana leads nation in meth lab busts, a growing concern for officials

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 31, 2014) — Indiana may be the new meth capital of the country. In 2013, the state led the nation with more than 1,700 methamphetamine busts, which outranked last year’s leader, Missouri.

Indiana made the top of the list last year, followed by Tennessee. Missouri is now ranked third, with Ohio and Illinois right behind.

Indiana State Police aren’t surprised by the numbers but called the issue a big concern. Officials attributed the spike in meth seizures to better policing and partnerships with communities.

However, those who make and deal meth are using new techniques to get around the law.

“They’re making more meth and more often,” said 1st Sgt. Niki Crawford, Commander of ISP’s Meth Suppression Section. “They’ve got somebody coming through their door on a regular basis with a box [of ingredients], and all they need is that box.”

It is a drug culture unlike any other — a world where dealers are addicts and make their own product. The key ingredient of meth, pseudoephedrine, is also cheap, easy to find and legal. It’s commonly found in cold and flu medicine on store shelves.

“We’ve got this whole culture that’s been created to subvert these laws,” said Crawford. “You’ve got people who will go out and spend $8 on a box of pseudoephedrine and in return will get $50 in drugs or cash.”

State laws limit the amount of pseudoephedrine each person can buy and require pharmacists to check IDs, but Crawford said those are not preventative measures.

Instead, groups of individuals known as “smurfs” will buy the maximum amount legally and add it together for large-scale production.

“What we have in the books should be there. The problem is they figured out ways to get around it,” said Crawford. “Just like any other crime, we are going to continue to fight.”

Other states like Oregon and Mississippi have taken extra steps to limit the sale of pseudoephedrine. They’ve enacted laws classifying the drug as a controlled substance, which would require a doctor’s prescription. Both states have seen a drop in meth seizures recently.