Despite decline of meth labs in state, authorities still see drug on streets

Posted at 9:55 PM, Aug 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-16 00:08:09-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Twelve years ago, the Beehive State saw more than 100 meth lab busts each year. However, that number has fallen to the point it's almost nonexistent.

Despite the decline of meth labs, health officials and law enforcement are more concerned than ever about the abuse of the drug in Utah.

“We see it on a nightly basis,” said Det. Roy Contreras with Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit. “Meth is the top one I run into every night out there.”

The Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit sees the drug’s destruction on a firsthand basis, but what they're not seeing anymore, is its production.

In 2004, there were 107 meth labs in Utah. In 2014, the numbers dropped to one.

“The situation has changed in the last 10 years or so to where we don't have as many meth lab busts,” said Sam LeFevre, Environmental Epidemiology Manager with the Utah Department of Health.

But with the sharp decline of labs, the use is only rising. Law enforcement is pointing the blame at a handful of things.

“We know it’s coming south of our boarders -- outside of our boarders it's made cheaper, higher quality,” Contreras said.

Super labs in Mexico and Central America are cooking it, getting it into the US. and using Utah’s main roadways to transport it. But when it is made locally, health experts say, people aren't using labs.

“Drug chemists have figured out ways of doing it without having a kitchen or a bathroom or some kind of facility so we have more shake and bake type manufacturing,” LeFevre said.

“You can make it in a soda pop bottle -- all you need to add is a certain amount of chemicals and just shake it and stir it and it's kinda like an Easy-Bake oven,” Contreras said.

To top the problem off, new drugs that are easier make and get ingredients for are taking over people's homes.

“There's always going to be something as long as people need something to help them along,” LeFevre said.

In 2014, there were more than 9,000 meth lab busts nationwide, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The state with the most lab busts that year was Indiana, but Utah has more users per capita.