ST. LOUIS -- Methamphetamine lab seizures rose nationally again in 2011, further evidence the powerfully addictive and dangerous drug is maintaining a tight grip on the nation's heartland, according to an Associated Press survey of the nation's top meth-producing states.
Missouri regained the top national spot for lab seizures in 2011 with 2,096, the AP confirmed through the survey that also found Tennessee was second with 1,687, followed by Indiana with 1,437, Kentucky with 1,188 and Oklahoma with 902.
The total for Missouri lines up with preliminary numbers AP obtained this week from the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose data appeared to show meth lab seizures remained about even during the past two years. But the totals for each of the other states surveyed by AP reveal the numbers are higher than the federal data.
Combined, the numbers indicate nationwide meth lab seizures rose at least 8.3 percent in 2011 compared with 2010.
Experts blame the continued increase on the drug's addictiveness and the growing popularity of the meth-making shortcut known as "shake-and-bake," in which the drug is concocted quickly in a soda bottle. The method results in smaller labs, but more of them.
Clandestine meth labs are most common in the Midwest and South. U.S. users who don't make the drug themselves get it from Mexico, but experts say the drug made in homemade labs is more addictive than the often-diluted product that crosses the border.
"When they're manufacturing it locally they're making the purest form and the strongest form they can make," said Sgt. Niki Crawford of the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Team.
Missouri had been the nation's No. 1 meth-producing state every year from 2003 to 2009 until falling behind Tennessee for one year. In 2011, a single Missouri county had more busts than Texas, Florida and California combined. Jefferson County, which is near St. Louis, tallied 253 seizures; the three states had 219.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull attributed the state's consistently high seizure rate to law enforcement agencies' focus on addressing the meth problem.
Police in many Missouri counties stake out pharmacies and watch for "pill shoppers" who go from store to store to purchase decongestants containing pseudoephedrine, a vital meth ingredient, now that tighter state restrictions have limited how much of the product they can buy in one place at one time. Many Missouri agencies also have officers focused solely on meth.
"Is Missouri that much worse or does Missouri just take a more aggressive approach? I think Missouri law enforcement just aggressively deals with the issue," Hull said.