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Methamphetamine labs: what to look for (10/27/2013)
By Jen Burris

Synthetic drug use may be increasing, but recent discoveries of suspected methamphetamine labs in both Houston and Fillmore counties confirm that meth is still being made and used in Southeast Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, symptoms of meth use include: increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate and irregular heartbeats, increased blood pressure, and hyperthermia, or high body temperature. Long-term use can cause extreme weight loss, dental problems, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, violent behaviors, hallucinations and delusions.

Winona Deputy Police Chief Tom Williams described activity that should be considered suspicious. People should look out for odors of ether or solvents, the concealment of windows with cardboard or paper, large amounts of cold medicines, short-term traffic at all hours, and people that park a block or two away from a residence they are visiting.

Due to the number of dangerous chemicals used in the production of meth as well as the potential unstable state of people involved with these drugs, police stress the importance of leaving the investigation to professionals. In the state of Minnesota, law enforcement officials have been to methamphetamine labs and locations where they have found booby traps, surveillance equipment, and vicious dogs, Williams added.

Meth labs can be very dangerous; producers use lithium batteries, ammonia, brake cleaner, ether, and paint thinner as chemicals to create the product. In the production of meth, these already highly flammable items are being subjected to heat, Williams explained. “If you spill, you will have an explosion, and the gases in the air would then ignite as well.”

Williams also pointed out that meth labs are not restricted to structures, but can be “rolling meth labs.” The ingredients can be in a car, truck, or van, that can be driven to a secluded area, such as the woods.

This can also be very dangerous because for every pound of meth that is made, five to seven pounds of chemical waste are left behind, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. These chemical byproducts can get dumped in ditches and buried in the ground, making it possible to contaminate ground water, Williams explained.

“If there’s a suspicion, we want a phone call and observations of what [people have] seen,” Williams said.  


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