Meth busts down for Buncombe County


By Catherine Hunter –

While news sources are reporting increases in methamphetamine (meth) busts throughout North Carolina, the Buncombe County Sheriff Department says they have seen a decease. News sources say there has been a 57 percent increase in busts throughout the state in the last six years, while Buncombe County saw a decrease several years ago.

“We haven’t really seen any change since there was a sharp decrease [in meth production] several years ago,” said Lt. Randy Sorells of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department. Sorells explained that decrease was a result of the laws restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine and other ingredients used in meth production.

The decreased availability of the ingredients reduced the ability of meth makers to produce the drug using the “shake and bake” method in which makers pour the ingredients into a liter soda bottle and shake it. Larger meth labs use an independent heat source to cook the ingredients.

“Now you can’t buy enough pseudoephedrine to make large amounts. It’s easier to buy what’s on the streets,” said Sorells who added that most of the meth they see in Buncombe County is transported in from Atlanta or even Mexico.

Though Sorells said meth is as dangerous as ever, it is now less prevalent than the new “bath salts” which became more and more popular in recent years. Bath salts is the street name for synthetic drugs which mimic the effects of cocaine and marijuana.

The white crystal form of bath salts resembles legal bathing products such as Epsom salts. In an attempt to avoid drug laws, packagers use the term “bath salts” and labeled the packages “not for human consumption.

“The effects of bath salts are many more times than meth or cocaine,” said Sorells. “It’s [bath salts] a phenomenon. Law enforcement all over the country are trying to get a handle on it.”

Last fall the Buncombe County Sheriff Department worked with the Federal Government to raid several stores in the Asheville area such as the Octopus Garden, in an effort to clean out bath salts suppliers. Sorells said since those raids, they have seen a decrease in bath salts sales in the county and those using the drug are getting it primarily through the internet.

“Statistics show substance abuse and crime have a close correlation,” Sorells said. “As we reduce substance abuse, we have an affect on crime.”

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