Meth lab seizures drop when funds dry up

Methamphetamine lab drug bust

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - In Memphis, the war on drugs is a door-to-door fight. CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports the enemy is increasingly methamphetamine.

"Meth has taken away the past three years," said Kim. "Long, depressing three years of my life that I won't get back.

Kim is an innocent victim. On Wednesday, the father of her 2-year-old daughter, Marcus Pritchett, was arrested on a felony drug charge.

"I do cook, and I sell dope," Pritchett said. "Of course there's people who come to me to buy dope. Of course, come on now fella."

Kim added, "Crystal meth is just one of the most horrible things that people can every try. It breaks up a family, it breaks up a home."

Methamphetamine facts from the NIH

As the red dots on the map below show, Tennessee is on its way to becoming the number one state for meth use in the nation. There were nearly 2,100 lab incidents, busts and explosions last year alone. That's up 250 percent since 2007.

Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force

Tommy Farmer, head of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, said, "It's a scourge. It's an epidemic."

"It's the worst drug," Farmer added. "It's the worst thing I've witnessed coming down the pipe in terms of a drain on society - a drain on all resources."

Tenn. overtakes Mo. in meth lab seizures, busts

Making matters worse - the "one-pot" or "shake and bake" method. It requires fewer steps and a simple soda bottle to mix the key ingredient - pseudoephedrine or ephedrine - found in common cold medicines.

Yet "shake," as it's known, is just as addictive and explosive. However it's made, it leaves behind a toxic mess law enforcement must clean up at an average cost of $2,500 per meth lab.

"Shake-n-bake" meth lab in a bottle

For the last decade, the DEA has passed out as much as $20 million a year to help states clean up meth labs. But in February, those dollars dried up.

That money, just $8.3 million this year, will be reduced to nothing next year if the current White House budget remains intact.

Since the funds ran out lab seizures have dropped as much as 50 percent in Tennessee.

Farmer says it's no coincidence.

Keteyian asked, "is there a mindset, unless you have to bust them, we don't have the money to clean it up?"

"There's no doubt that's definitely happened," Farmer said. "When the federal funds were exhausted, it sent folks into a spin. It's a scramble."

Meanwhile, the collateral damage keeps spreading. Some homes are so contaminated they're quarantined. People, like Pritchett, are ripped apart from their children. More casualties in the war on meth.