Meth Lab Crackdown in Kentucky

"Nightline" investigates dealers who allegedly pay people to buy cold medicine.
3:00 | 12/01/11

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Transcript for Meth Lab Crackdown in Kentucky
In the heartland where cops are working -- round the clock. To keep in every day cold medicine out of the hands of drug dealers the key ingredient. To making -- can be found in any drugstore in dealers are paying big bucks. To get their hands on what has now become a closely regulated supply of it. Chris -- catches up with the cops trying to catch those dealers. For our series Nightline investigation. If you're a fan of AMC's hit series breaking bad that you know the -- America's drug dealer Walter White. Making methamphetamine is just basic chemistry. Turns out fiction follows fact methamphetamine abuse is exploding across rural America. In Kentucky -- labs have nearly tripled since 2008. It's become an all consuming battle for deputy Dana and -- -- six under covers and its art Smoot leads the task force here called operation unite nobody were under the car and suit up there will -- -- at Walgreens and CBS at 9 AM his team of thirty officers. Most undercover in unmarked vehicles hit the road. Targeting locations that might surprise you. Local drugstores like Walgreens CVS and Wal-Mart. Pseudo ephedrine is found -- over the counter cold remedies like sued -- fed. While these pills may provide relief to cold sufferers to criminals making meth. They are pure gold meth makers legally buy as much of their raw product as they -- The one single ingredient they must have to produce methamphetamine is pseudo ephedrine. A federal law designed to crack down on methamphetamine abuse sets a hard limit on -- to ephedrine. No more than nine grams or about seven packs. Per customer each month. But to get around that limit electronically tracked by Kentucky drugstores meth users team up to each by the maximum. A practice known as Murphy named after those little blue cartoon characters I want. -- have to -- to pet. By noon inside this nearby Walgreens and undercover cop tracks three women who arrived together in this red shifting. But the pain they're. I have. What -- your undercover officer report. That all three of the occupants of the red Monte Carlo purchase pseudo ephedrine believes one of them -- and. It's their unlucky day. Suspicious the task force follows them is the Monte Carlo pulls out of the parking lot. An -- that would have been. If -- go anywhere else. Moments later they come to a stop. At first one of the women tells police they just needed cold medicine -- -- medicine. Another denies that she paid one of the younger women to buy for her shelling out police tell us eighty dollars for a seven dollar -- pack of cold medicine. A quick 1000%. Mark. Why were you giving her. There. A search of the car quickly turns up what police say he is incriminating evidence. So while we found a massive amounts of marijuana. We found them feel okay once they got. I think given the night. One of the women is arrested on drug charges. Another is arrested for possession of -- and driving under the influence but her case was eventually dismissed. Another woman at the residence is taken in for outstanding warrants or the fourth is not charge. What we found. Well the classic case -- more from as it turns out the one lady had recruited two of the younger girls to go around to the -- season purchases. How typical is this kind of thing. -- -- Unfortunately it's an everyday occurrence we're number three in the United States of America for forgot. By mid afternoon the task force finds the Walgreens pharmacy is so crowded with people buying -- fed they're like seven the -- -- That the store runs out that I could hold out hope -- how many of those people -- the jets and allergies colds and how many do you think. Want to make meth probably 70%. Of the sort of federal purchase was diverted 70% do you think went -- -- yes the manufacture and we have to my Eagles. That are -- after these two men each -- packages the task force follows them. American. -- There are reasons I felt a little one. -- more bad but but it. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Moments later they pull over the car after it's run two red lights. Okay. -- -- I don't know if water inside the -- everything needed to make meant well bingo -- Probably NFC strong here. Better -- filters. The raw chemicals and a meth lab are extremely volatile. So what team is called -- to neutralize the ingredients. Boston Police 2000 dollars for every routine bus -- to. The two men arrested on multiple drug charge. Both pleaded not guilty. For all of their arrests the task force insists that Kenneth stamp out meth. -- the active ingredient -- to ephedrine becomes much more difficult to get. There's fifteen boxes of medication behind the -- these pharmacies. We -- to be -- controlled substance prescription prescription. The only two states or again and Mississippi that now require prescriptions reported dramatic decline in meth labs. In organ busts are down 96%. Since 2006. In Mississippi they're down 66%. Since the law took hold last year used to -- -- passengers but over the counter remedies for cold and allergy relief makeup 04 billion dollar business. The pharmaceutical industry is fighting stricter regulation its trade group told us efforts to impose a prescription mandate will not stop meth abuse. And will punish the more than eighteen million American families who rely upon these -- The pharmaceutical companies and even some allergy sufferers say we don't want to put our customers through -- -- convenience of a prescription for simple cold medicine -- We'll look at inconvenience and our daily jobs you know. If you take a plane anywhere now you have to take your shoes off your belt off. -- -- -- -- For the Kentucky unite task force the day's work drags into night today actually -- -- -- of this bubbling. Over the same hills that moonshine owners once ran. They chase a tip of yet another -- plan. Just after 7 PM armed with a search warrant there's probable and -- -- calls. For the issue of search or they find an active -- it will most likely start react Canadian and so will have pursued. And the finished product that is packages. Thank you let them -- -- Hours earlier authorities removed a three year old from the squalid home littered with needles and power. Conditions all too typical of meth addicts a field test should turn this electric blue. Confirms police suspicions. Positive for the prisons methamphetamine. And after a our day another -- is -- It's every day you could bust people basically all -- -- all along as long as the pharmacy doors are open we can make progress. An uphill fight on the new front in the nation's -- war. I'm Chris -- for Nightline in London Kentucky.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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