Responders taught, warned about meth labs
By SANDI SWITZER
Correspondent | March 30,2013
Drug Enforcement Agency Photo
The addictive drug methampetamine can be made using legally purchased items. Vermont emergency responders learned about the drug at a local presentation this week.
CLARENDON — First responders went back to school this week on a subject of growing concern in Vermont.
Nearly 100 police, fire and emergency medical personnel from across the state descended on Clarendon Elementary School for a “Meth Awareness” presentation.
Responders learned how to identify methamphetamine labs and ways to safely assist law enforcement agencies in securing the labs.
Lt. Reg Trayah, a member of the Vermont State Police Clandestine Lab team, spearheaded the two-hour presentation that featured a slide show of stark images depicting “one-pot” or “shake-n-bake” labs using legally purchased items.
Trayah stressed at the outset Wednesday night that the class was “not meant for you to go in and mitigate any lab whatsoever.” Instead, he said the program would assist first responders with identifying potential meth labs and the procedures for notifying the appropriate law enforcement officers.
The lieutenant said the “one-pot” cook method was a cheap, simple and quick way for drug users to produce the highly addictive stimulant at nearly any location — including inside a vehicle, then disposing of the waste along the roadside.
Those using this method cook or shake ingredients — commonly found in kitchen and bathroom cabinets and garages — in a single container to generate heat and produce the drug in a matter of hours, according to Trayah.
“This is the rage right now,” he said, holding up a green 2-liter soda bottle outfitted with a clear plastic tube in place of the cap.
Keen observation is needed for responders to spot potential labs, Trayah said. A bottle of the cold medicine Sudafed may not be noteworthy on its own, but several bottles with the bottoms removed would be suspicious, the officer said.
“They like to cut the bottoms off to get to it quicker,” Trayah said.
Lithium batteries are common in homes, but spotting those same batteries stripped apart should raise concerns. “They need lithium in the one-pot to cause heat,” he said.
Cans of brake fluid, carburetor cleaner, or camp fuel — used in one-pot labs — are often found in garages, he said.
“If you see this, you call me,” Trayah said, holding cans with small holes punctured in the bottoms.
First responders may observe those using the drug to have dilated pupils, “meth mouth” or brown enamel along the gum line, and scratch marks on their arms. Users will often hallucinate that insects are crawling on them and continually scratch themselves, he added.
The drug can be smoked, injected, snorted or swallowed to create a “high” that can last four to 16 hours, Trayah said.
Those responding to an accident, fire or criminal complaint should notify Vermont State Police if they see signs of a lab, Trayah said. Responders were warned not to handle suspicious items, due to potential health issues associated with chemical exposure.
The officer said one-pot or shake-n-bake labs were increasingly becoming an issue in New England
For an investment of a few hundred dollars, someone could make thousands of dollars in profit, he said.
“If you had a chance to take $500 and make it $10,000, would jail be much of a deterrent?” Trayah said. “It has to be rehabilitation.”
He said police detected six methamphetamine labs in Vermont from December 2011 to December 2012.
“New Hampshire is getting beaten up by one-pots and if it’s happening there, it’s happening here,” Trayah said. “I want meth cooks to feel it’s not safe to cook in Vermont.”
The “Meth Awareness” presentation was sponsored by Rutland Region Local Emergency Planning Committee, which operates with the assistance of the Rutland Regional Planning Commission.