Breaking Bad and the rise of meth labs

Location of meth lab that was dismantled in March. Photo: Google Maps

By Lindsay Tahan |

St. Johns County sheriff’s deputies say they have seen a rise in meth labs as they shut down pill mills. One of the biggest meth labs they’ve seen in recent years was located at a manufactured home along Ravenswood Drive, just south of Crookshank Elementary School.

Four people were arrested in March in connection with the lab, deputies say. Christopher Hicks, 28, Adam Barber, 34, and Christopher Demarco 22, were charged with possession of methamphetamine. Another suspect, Angela Price, 47, was charged with manufacturing and possession of methamphetamine.

From left, Christopher Demarco, Adam Barber, Christopher Hicks and Angela Price.

From left, Christopher Demarco, Adam Barber, Christopher Hicks and Angela Price.

“This drug is very simple to make, anyone can make it. Everything is purchased over the counter at hardware stores,” said Chuck Mulligan, spokesman for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

Meth is also cheap to buy compared to some other illegal drugs.

“You get high for a very long period of time for a minimal amount of money,” said Mulligan.

Christopher Strickland, director of Office of the Sheriff in St. Johns County, says some suspects arrested for manufacturing or possessing methamphetamine have criminal records, but others do not.

He said he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the hit TV show, Breaking Bad, might pique some viewer’s curiosity about meth, but he suspects that most illegal drug manufacturers are so mixed up in drugs that they probably don’t watch a lot of television.

Breaking Bad is about Walter White, a struggling high school science teacher who decides to get into the meth business.

Location of meth lab that was dismantled in March. Photo: Google Maps

Location of meth lab that was dismantled in March. Photo: Google Maps

Strickland says many drug traffickers are reluctant to import meth into the U.S. because it’s so easy to make.

Strickland says that the show Breaking Bad may cause a pique of curiosity, but other than that he does not think drug dealers watch a lot of television because they are too involved with drugs.

Strickland estimates that more than 1,000, if not several thousand, meth labs have been shut down in Florida in recent years.

“The number of meth labs has increased because we shut the pill mills down,” said Strickland.

A pill mill is “operation in which a doctor, clinic or pharmacy prescribes and/or dispenses narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose,” according to Google.

Authorities used to find most meth labs in rural areas, but the labs are increasingly found in urban areas, Mulligan says.

Christopher Strickland

Christopher Strickland

Strickland says meth makers are also more mobile and are able to fit their lab equipment in a backpack.

“The smaller they become the more transportable they become,” says Strickland.

Mulligan says when clearing out a meth lab the first thing to do is open all windows and doors for ventilation.

Members of the sheriff’s clandestine lab team must wear protective gear along with oxygen tanks.

The North Carolina Department of Justice says that meth labs usually include: “glassware like jars or containers, plastic bottles, rubber tubing, masks and filters, funnels, gloves, storage tubs, coffee filters or other items used such as a strainer, containers of liquids, gas cylinders/tanks, and white powdery residue.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, meth “recipes” can be easily found on the Internet or by talking with other people who are involved in the making of methamphetamine or “meth.”

Minnesota health officials say that meth labs can exist inside or out, in homes or cars, or in wooded areas. Signs of a possible meth lab, they say, includes visitors at the site at all hours of the day; people who are secretive or show paranoid behavior; strong chemical odors; and extreme security measures such as cameras, fences or covering windows.

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