Meth users find new, cheaper ways to get high
By LPR Staff
Rumors are sweeping through Middle America’s drug circles about a new and less expensive way to produce one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs known to man. Although law enforcement officials suggest the new method of cooking methamphetamine has not appeared in Caldwell County, anecdotal tales have surfaced about “
shake and bake,” a portable and extremely dangerous way to produce the drug.
Jesse Hernandez, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department’s leading narcotics investigator and a director of the Texas Narcotics Officers’ Association, said he has had his ear to the ground about the “shake and bake” method of cooking methamphetamine, which involves mixing the decongestant pseudephedrine with several noxious, but common household chemicals in a two-liter bottle and shaking the mixture until the methamphetamine is formed.
“We’ve heard about it, but our intelligence hasn’t actually seen it here yet,” Hernandez said Tuesday. “I can see that some of the older, more ‘experienced’ meth cookers might be using this method, because they know the chemicals and how to combine them.”
“Shake and bake,” Hernandez said, is a flameless method of producing methamphetamine which requires smaller quantities of pseudoephedrine, the sale of which has become highly regulated in recent years.
“With ‘shake and bake’ they can drive around in the car, and cook their meth, and they don’t have to build an actual cook lab anywhere, which might make it easier to produce the drug,” Hernandez said. “But it’s also a lower quality product, and they won’t be able to make enough to sell, most likely.”
Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said he hoped educating Caldwell County residents about the growing popularity of ‘shake and bake’ would help law enforcement get in front of the curve and recognize the use of the cooking method before it gains popularity.
“After they finish ‘cooking’ and pour off the drug, they just have this bottle of chemicals,” Law said. “They can throw it in the trash or out the car window, and then someone picking up trash might pick up this bottle, not knowing what’s in there.”
Law said the byproducts of methamphetamine production not only have a distinct odor, but can be incredibly dangerous.
“Basically, what you’re looking at after they pour the meth off is a bottle of acid,” he said. “And while they’re making it, it’s basically a bomb. They have to shake this bottle to create the friction, and if the mix is wrong, or even if they open the bottle too fast or shake too hard, it can blow up in their hands. And afterward… it’s just toxic chemicals they can dump out wherever they want to.”
Law said his main concern is that an innocent individual picking up trash could be injured by the byproducts of the drug.
“The people at the side of the road picking up trash, they use the sticks and I’d hate to see someone jab one of those sticks into one of these bottles, and have it blow up on them,” he said. “Or to have a child helping their parents pick up trash on the road in front of their house, picks up this bottle of acid and gets it all over them.”
Law and Hernandez agreed that any Caldwell County resident that sees trash that looks like it could be a byproduct of a ‘shake and bake’ production should contact authorities immediately.
“Under [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration], we have to have a hazardous materials team to clean that up,” Hernandez said. “And we’d much rather do that than have citizens out there trying to clean up what amounts to a toxic chemical spill.”
Law said he has spoken to many citizens that hesitate to call authorities because they believe officers have “better things to do.”
“But we don’t have better things to do,” he said. “This IS what we do. Worst case, if someone calls us because they see a burned up bottle with some kind of sludge that normally doesn’t come in that bottle is that we have a training exercise for that deputy. Best case, we prevent something bad from happening.”
Bottles used in the production of “shake and bake” meth often look partially melted or burned, and may be charred around the lip of the bottle. The chemicals in the bottle after the methamphetamine is harvested have properties similar to battery acid, with a distinct ammonia-like odor.
“That’s something I wish that we could teach people that want to help us fight the drug war here, what meth smells like,” Law said. “It’s very distinctive, and if you ever smell it, you know it.”
Although Law and Hernandez said there has not been a bust of a meth lab since the early 1990s, there is no denying that some residents of Caldwell County do use the drug, and might attempt to cook it on their own.
“An addict is an addict, and they will do whatever they have to do to get their drug,” Hernandez said. “The reason that ‘shake and bake’ is a problem in Oklahoma, and is growing in other areas, is because it requires so much less of the drugs and the chemicals. But still, people are going to try to take short cuts with it, and that’s where it will become even more dangerous.”
Residents who suspect drug production or trafficking in their area are encouraged to contact the authorities immediately, either by dialing 9-1-1 or calling the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department at (512) 398-6777.