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“It’s all about dollars and cents,” he said.

Ice is said to be about twice as potent as homemade meth. Users say it takes a smaller amount of ice to get the “rush” the stimulant provides.

Users also are attracted to ice because of its appearance, Comeaux said.

“The super labs make it look crystal clear,” he said. “You can see straight through it like the rock candy we used to get when we were kids. Meth users look at it and say how clean it looks. The meth they get from mom-and-pop labs is a dark ivory-beige color.”

Shake-and-bake labs are on the rise in Pearl River County, Comeaux said, but ice remains the region’s key meth scourge.

Area law enforcement agencies also are seeing more ice and less homemade meth these days, said Troy Peterson, captain of the Coastal Narcotics Enforcement Team and the narcotics division of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office.

Ice sells for $150 to $200 a gram on the street, Peterson said. Just one ounce of it provides about 30 “hits” or doses.

Drug traffickers typically charge local suppliers hundreds of dollars or more for a pound.

Ice is generally smoked or injected but also can be swallowed or inhaled. Its effects can last for six hours, followed by difficulty in sleeping for several days. Health experts say ice and other forms of meth can cause bizarre, dangerous behavior and debilitating physical and mental health problems.

The drug also rots teeth and makes addicts look years older.

Investigating drug runners and traffickers has become increasingly dangerous because of suspects’ affiliations with drug cartels and the possibility they are armed, Comeaux said.

That’s why drug agents perform surveillance and gather as much intelligence as possible before they orchestrate a take-down.

Local agents have been shot at when spotted at drug buys and have been threatened in messages passed on through social media and word on the street, but none has been wounded in recent years.

The danger isn’t something DEA agents take lightly, Comeaux said, especially when it comes time to plan a take-down that could put others in danger.

Take-downs often occur in restaurant or hotel parking lots, where agents find ice stashed in duffel bags, suitcases or hidden compartments built into or underneath vehicles. With a quick, pre-arranged signal after a drug transfer takes place, undercover agents rush in to make arrests.

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