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'Shake and bake' meth poses new explosive danger

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When one drug leaves, another one almost always replaces it.

For instance, methamphetamine, or meth, as it is often referred to, was the drug of choice not that long ago.

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But the use of meth has since slowed down.

"A lot of people were arrested and we were hard on them," said Scot Umlauf, special agent in charge for the West Central Minnesota Narcotics Task Force. "The use of meth in this area has dramatically been reduced."

Since the decline in meth, there has been an increase in the use of cocaine. The reason, according to Umlauf, is because cocaine is easier to obtain and cheaper.

Along with cocaine, the use of prescription drugs has also become prevalent in this area, he said. He explained that drug users don't ingest the prescription drugs through their mouth, but they crush them up and then inject them into their veins.

However, law enforcement officials are expecting methamphetamine to resurface because of a new method for producing it.

It's called "shake and bake," said Umlauf, adding that, "It is very dangerous and very explosive."

Although the new shake and bake method hasn't hit this area yet, Umlauf expects it will hit central Minnesota all too soon.

It has already hit in areas from California to West Virginia, but hasn't become popular in Minnesota - yet.

When meth first became popular, the method for making it required an elaborate lab.

With the new method, a small amount of pills are crushed, mixed with household chemicals, such as ammonia nitrate, which is found in instant cold packs or ice packs, and then shaken in a two-liter bottle. No flame or elaborate lab is needed.

The shake and bake method takes a lot less Sudafed, a cold medicine containing ephedrine, Umlauf said.

Store employees will now need to be on the lookout for customers purchasing smaller amounts of cold medicines, like Sudafed, along with ice packs, he added.

"We will need to start educating employees in the near future," Umlauf said.

Once the chemicals react, a crystalline powder is left and drug users smoke, snort or inject it.

The batches may be small, but even more dangerous than what is made in bigger labs. One little mistake, such as unscrewing the bottle cap too fast, can trigger an explosion.

Umlauf said the burns caused by these blasts can be much more significant than burns sustained from a lab blast because the person is holding the mixture in their hands.

Police departments in states such as Alabama and Oklahoma have linked dozens of flash fires this year - some of them fatal - to meth manufacturing using the shake and bake method.

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Justin Juozapavicius from the West Central Tribune contributed to this story. The West Central Tribune and the Echo Press are owned by Forum Communications.

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