In the never-ending battle against illegal drugs in the lake area, a prominent drug enforcement group has mixed news: the use of synthetic drugs is down, but a more dangerous replacement is on the rise.

Clarification: We would like to clarify a story printed earlier this week. The owners of the Hippie
Spirit business are not the same as the owner of the building. It is
the owners of the Hippie Spirit business that have had ongoing legal
issues. The owner of the building was not involved in any way with the
business. We apologize for the confusion. The story has now been changed to reflect this. 


In the never-ending battle against illegal drugs in the lake area, a prominent drug enforcement group has mixed news: the use of synthetic drugs is down, but a more dangerous replacement is on the rise.

According to Sgt. Mac Brand, Task Force Coordinator for Lake Area Narcotics Enforcement Group, better known as LANEG, investigations into businesses selling synthetic drugs in the lake area during the last two years has contributed to the decrease of usage in the area.

"We have seen a dramatic decrease in the sale of synthetic drugs and bath salts in Camden County," Brand told the Lake Sun.

Bath salts look exactly like they sound. But unlike epsom salts and other bathing products, bath salts snorted or swallowed can cause a wide range of effects from hallucinations to heart palpitations and panic attacks. Synthetic drugs are most often herbs sprayed with chemicals to mimic the look of marijuana and have been sold in businesses under code names like K2 or spice.

As recent as a year ago, synthetic drug use was rampant in the lake area. Hippie Spirit in Camdenton was busted for selling synthetic drugs in July 2012. The building is now for rent and its owners of the store are facing federal charges as of July. Two employees from the Puff n Snuff in Camdenton were arrested for having drug paraphernalia in March 2013. A coordinated effort by several agencies to raise awareness about synthetic drugs is also credited with the decrease in usage. The store owners rented the building in Camdenton. Therefore the owners of the store and of the building, are not the same individuals. 

While the trend to use synthetics seems to be fading, other drugs have moved to the forefront in Camden County.

Brand said that the drug they see the most is methamphetamine ice which is made out of the country, sent to large Missouri cities and pipelined into the lake area. The second drug they often see is the illegal sale of prescription drugs and narcotics such as morphene, oxycodone and oxycontin. Brand added that the prescription drug issue is not only a lake-area issue but a statewide problem.

"They (dealers) get a 30 day prescription and sell the pills," Brand said.

While methamphetamine and pills are the largest group in terms of drug busts, a more dangerous drug is on the increase in the lake area. Brand noted that heroin use in rural areas is on the rise and leads to more overdoses and hospital admittances than other drugs.

"It is so easy to overdose on," he said of the drug.

LANEG is a multi-jurisdictional drug task force that currently serves Camden, Crawford, Gasconade, Laclede, Maries, and Osage Counties with an approximate population of 142,000 residents. The task force serves also the cities of Camdenton, Osage Beach, Lebanon, Cuba, Steelville, Bourbon, and Belle.

LANEG employs five task force officers and is coordinated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which supplies two troopers to the task force. The group focuses its efforts on drug enforcement by conducting both covert and overt narcotics investigations in the counties and cities it serves.

During the second quarter of 2014 — from April 1 through June 30 — the task force seized a total of 54 grams of methamphetamine, 1 gram of heroin, 676 grams of marijuana, 10 marijuana plants, 12 grams of ecstasy, 93 units of prescription drugs and 123 grams of pseudoephedrine from the six-county area.

During the second quarter LANEG also disassembled 16 methamphetamine drug laboratories and dump sites, served 19 search warrants, conducted 46 consent searches and arrested 79 individuals, totaling 133 separate drug related charges.

LANEG credits its success to local and surrounding law enforcement agencies’ and the public’s cooperation.

Anyone with information regarding a possible methamphetamine laboratory, growing of marijuana, or other information about the distribution of narcotics, are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement agency or by calling 1-888-823-METH (6384) or 1-800-BAD-WEED (223-9333). All callers have the option of remaining anonymous.

Funding for this project was made available by the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), which is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the State of Missouri Department of Public Safety.