Meth labs again on rise in Kentucky

The number of illegal methamphetamine labs destroyed in Kentucky has increased in the last 18 months as meth "cookers" have found ways around efforts to limit production of the dangerous, highly addictive drug.

A 2005 change in state law to restrict access to a key ingredient needed to produce meth drove down the number of makeshift labs police found, but only for a while.

The May 30 death of a 22-month-old Wayne County boy who drank drain cleaner his parents allegedly were using to make meth grabbed local and national headlines at a time when the number of labs is going up.

The number of labs across the state fell from 604 in 2004 to 302 in 2007, but that number rose to 405 in 2008, according to the Kentucky State Police.

The upward trend continues this year, according to police around the state.

In far western Kentucky, the Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force cleaned up 49 meth labs the first five months of this year compared with 10 in the same period last year. In Eastern Kentucky, Operation UNITE cleaned up 30 meth labs in 2008 but already has worked 23 this year, according to officers with those agencies.

When the number of labs started going down a few years ago, "We thought, 'Great, we've beat back the tide,' " said Capt. Kevin Payne, head of the state police's drug enforcement-special investigations unit for the eastern half of the state. "Now the tide's kind of turned and is coming back in again."

Meth producers have adapted to efforts to restrict access to pseudoephedrine, which is found in over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines and is needed to make meth.

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