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Posted: 5:42 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013

The mind of a meth head: What you need to know

Horrors of Methamphetamines
TIM SLOAN
All mugshots have been provided by Rehabs.com and were pulled from state and county law enforcement agencies' web sites. The subjects were arrested for possession of meth or meth paraphernalia or were involved in other meth related crimes. In some cases the physical changes are the result of actual use of meth over time, while others were the byproduct of being involved with the production of meth (or both). Learn more about devastating effects of meth.

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St. Aug Meth 1 photo
Matt Augustine
The scene at the meth lab bust Wednesday morning in St. Augustine.

By Matt Augustine

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

TV shows like AMC's Breaking Bad may glorify it, but there probably aren't any high school chemistry teachers with nothing to lose cooking meth here in North Florida.  The truth about meth is, indeed, both ugly and potentially deadly.

On Monday, WOKV brought you the story of a meth lab found in a Southside baseball dugout.  We learned Tuesday from JSO that there is still no word on who the suspects might be.  Just in the last year we have seen meth labs pop up in hotel rooms, in well-to-do subdivisions, and even under the intracoastal bridge.  In February of 2012 Clay County Sheriff's Office Detective David White was shot and killed during a meth lab raid in Middleburg.  Law enforcement officials say all this is proof not that the cookers themselves are getting more bold with where they decide to cook, but that the addiction associated with meth use will drive some people to do anything if they're desperate enough.

"It's not as much the boldness of the personality of the individual, it's the extreme addiction issues to the substance, says St. Johns County Sheriff's deputy Sergeant Chuck Mulligan.

Mulligan says meth is becoming a more prevalent problem here on the First Coast and across the country because in a tough economy, meth is cheap to buy on the streets and easy to make.

"We believe that there has been more of a transference over to meth because of its ease of acquirement," says Mulligan.

The signs of a meth lab are well-known to some, but it's important to be reminded of some of the telltale signs of a cook operation.

"You're looking for a combination of items.  There are certain types of chemicals like pseudophedrine that can be sued to create meth in addition to propane tanks, the plastic tubing, the strong chemical smell, all of those things in conjunction with each other at the same place and time are going to be an indicator," says Officer Shannon Hartley with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The cleanup process associated with meth labs is devastating on taxpayer wallets as well.  Sgt. Mulligan says hazmat teams and deputies have to be called to the scene for hours to decontaminate the area.  Anyone involved in that cleanup has to wear a special disposable suit.

"Over time I would say a small cook is at a minimum $1000 to $1500 whereas a red phosphorous lab could run into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on its size," says Mulligan.

The public safety risk associated with cooking meth is huge as well.  Volatile and flammable chemicals that are not handled properly could cause an explosion, so it's important for everyone to keep an eye out in their neighborhood.  As evidenced by some of the places we've seen meth labs show up, it's clear that those who want to cook it will do so wherever they can if it means getting that next high.  Sgt. Mulligan says if you see something or smell something, you need to say something.  Call your local police if you suspect that someone is cooking meth in your neighborhood.

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