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When the economy gets tough, the tough make meth. Or so it seems. The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader’s Bill Estep reports that the number of meth labs in Kentucky has jumped over the last 18 months, as meth “cookers” have found ways to circumvent laws meant to limit production. Kentucky, like may other states, passed a law in 2005 aimed at limiting access to an ingredient needed to make the addictive drug. (Have you tried to buy a cold medicine recently?) As states have placed monthly limits on how many cold or allergy pills an individual can purchase, meth producers have recruited small armies of buyers to buy drugs containing pseudoephedrine, which is used to produce methamphetamine. “It’s like anything else — give them two or three years, and they’ll find ways around it,” one agent told Estep.

The U.S. placed limits on the exports of pseudoephedrine to Mexico, where meth “superlabs” were built. This has slowed production south of the border, but, in turn, that has increased production here, according to Estep. Meth producers have also figured out how to produce the drug in a two-liter soda bottle.

There are still many states without restrictions on cold medicines. None of the states bordering Kentucky have limits on the sales of drugs containing pseudoephedrine. Kentucky law enforcement officials say a national law is needed. Meanwhile, the number of meth labs discovered in Kentucky fell from 604 in 2004 to 302 in 207, but then increased to 405 in 2008.

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