Narcotics team cracking down on main ingredient in meth

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) -  Most people use it to treat the occasional cold but for those who make meth, pseudoephedrine is key.

"The one common denominator, the one chemical that is used in every different type of lab is pseudoephedrine," explained Mike Loyless who heads up the PAIN Narcotics Team (Partners Against Illegal Narcotics), an agency made up of investigators from the Phenix City Police Department and Russell County Sheriff's Office.

A law on the books in Alabama limits the amount of the medicine people can buy during a given time period and any customer who buys it must sign a log book.

Members of the PAIN team are pulling those logs and noticing obvious trends.

"We checked the amounts from the different locations and find out who is, what we call, shopping which is going place to place and within short periods of time, buying pseudoephedrine in excessive amounts," Loyless revealed.

"Once we started looking at it, it was very evident to us that we had a lot more people purchasing way, way over that's legally allowed," added Lieutenant Heath Taylor, the Chief Investigator in Russell County.

After pulling records from just a two month period, investigators charged 23 people- 14 people have been arrested and warrants have been issued for nine others. Some face a misdemeanor charge of Illegal Purchase of Ephedrine and other faces a felony charge of Possession of a Precursor.

Local pharmacies are also taking a stand.

"We don't sell any Sudafed-containing cold or cough medicine without knowing who the person is. If it's a stranger, we don't sell it to them. One of the most dangerous things you can do to your body is to use meth," said Stan Malkemus who is the head pharmacist at Five Star Pharmacy on 13th Street in Phenix City.

Over the past year, PAIN agents have busted close to 20 meth labs.

Just this week, an active lab was found in Phenix City with 14-day-old baby inside.

Officers say going after potential labs by looking at the pharmacy purchasing logs is just as important as a raid.

"Labs are devastating to our community and we're doing everything we can to try to curb having to deal with this- the public, law enforcement, everybody from having to put up with these labs and if it takes us stopping the people that are buying the ingredient, then that's what we're going to do," Loyless said.

Investigators say they'll continue to pull the pharmacy log books and make criminal cases.

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