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Officials say meth labs nearly eradicated in Utah

Officials say meth labs nearly eradicated in Utah



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FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) -- Utah's crackdown on methamphetamine labs is practically complete. After years of vigorous enforcement, authorities say they couldn't find any major meth labs in 2007 to shut down.

Restrictions on the sale of drugstore chemicals aided the effort, says DEA agent Eric Breyer.

Meth use, however, shows no sign of declining.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration says 4,549 people in Utah sought treatment for use of methamphetamine and other amphetamines in 2006, a 4 percent increase over 2005.

Drug enforcers say meth bought in Utah is now manufactured in foreign markets, principally Mexico.

Breyer said he started working for the Drug Enforcement Agency at the peak of local production in 2000, and has seen the labs almost eradicated since then. His office seized a stockpile of chemicals necessary for meth production this year, but the lab was not yet operational.

Breyer said it was possible that loal police agencies seized some minor meth labs during the year, but he was unaware of it.

Two economic forces pushed "mom and pop" meth labs out of business, Breyer said.

Over-the-counter decongestants that contain precursor chemicals for meth production are now regulated in the U.S., although they are still widely available in Mexico.

Despite all the attention meth labs got in past years, they were never a huge source of production for Utah meth users, he said.

"When we would break up a meth lab ring, the impact we would see would be relatively small. It would be limited to people who knew the cook," he said.

Lt. Allen Swanson of the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force said meth labs could still exist in Utah, but are insignificant compared to Mexican drug cartels' abilities to import.

"Sometimes it comes directly to Utah from Mexico, or through California or Arizona from Mexico," he said of the local drug trade routes. "We win many battles here, but sometimes it's a little frustrating that we're not winning the war overall, and that's because of the demand."

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Information from: Standard-Examiner

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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