Drug agents are seeking the public's help in stemming what they call alarming increases in local and statewide illegal manufacturing of methamphetamines.
A Payson-area member of the Gila County Narcotics Task Force, who asked to remain anonymous, said most suspects arrested in the Rim country are in possession of some form of "meth" or "speed."
"Hundreds of illegal labs used to manufacture the products have been seized, while perhaps hundreds more have gone undetected," Department of Public Safety Sgt. Faith Morgan of the High Intensity Drug Force Area (HIDTA) said.
The deputies also said meth contributes to volatile behavior, making suspects more dangerous.
According to local and state drug agents, the public can help by reporting frequent or large quantity purchase of items that are used in the manufacturing of illegal drugs.used in the manufacturing of illegal drugs.
- Rubbing alcohol
- Cold medicines
- Gasoline additives
- Brake cleaner (toluene)
- Engine starter (ether)
- Drain cleaner (sulfuric acid)
- Coffee filters
- Lithium batteries
- Propane tanks
- Matches (red phosphorus)
- Muriatic acid
Illegal drug manufacturers commonly make meth with the cold medicine ingredient pseudoephedrine, agents said. Other ingredients include iodine crystals and red phosphorus or "Red P."
Illegal drug makers purchase the pseudoephedrine and iodine over the counter from pharmacies and obtain the "Red P" off the striking pad on match books.
In March, agents destroyed a unique and highly dangerous meth lab found in a remote area north of Payson.
Highly toxic anhydrous ammonia, used to manufacture meth, was found inside. The drug operation was the first of its kind found in northern Gila County.
An alert issued by the Environmental Protection Agency warned that the effects of inhaling anhydrous ammonia "range from lung irritation to severe respiratory injuries with possibly fatality.
"Anhydrous ammonia also is corrosive and can burn the skin....it has a boiling point of minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature it can cause freezing burns."
"Anhydrous ammonia vapors can become an explosion hazard when in a confined space," the alert also reported.
Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant. Anydrous ammonia can be as inexpensive as $200 a ton for agricultural purposes, but can sell for as much as $300 per gallon on the black market.
Call the GCNTF task force at (928) 474-0728 or the Meth Task Force Hotline (800) STOP-METH if you suspect illegal drug manufacturing or if you find a meth lab.