Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive synthetic stimulant that triggers the release of high levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Often called meth, ice, crystal or crank, the drug is a white, odorless bitter crystalline powder that can be snorted, injected, smoked or orally ingested. Meth gives users an intense rush followed by an increase in energy, euphoria, increased libido and stamina. Long term and binge use of the drug causes people to become erratic, aggressive, confused, paranoid and violent.
Methamphetamine has become a serious problem in society over the last 15 years from when it first became a popular drug. It contributes to long term health problems, social problems, relationship breakdowns and mental health issues, as well as violent crime. The long term effects of methamphetamine use is not yet known, but statistics and evidence suggests that cancer, respiratory disorders and psychiatric issues are a result of using the drug. Additionally, the manufacture of methamphetamine causes significant problems for the producers and the communities in which they operate.
Methamphetamine is highly dangerous but relatively easy to produce. It is manufactured with easy-to-obtain over-the-counter drugs and other readily available chemicals. These chemicals may include flammable household products such as kerosine, paint thinner, rubbing alcohol and lighter fluid. Corrosive chemicals such as battery acid, drain cleaner, ammonia, fertilizers and phosphorus from matches are also used.
There are two main ways that methamphetamine is made, an anhydrous ammonia method and a red phosphorus method. A new method known as the Shake and Bake method is also increasingly being used. All methods use 3 basic steps – extraction of precursor drug (ephedrine/pseudoephedrine), reduction of ephedrine/pseudoephedrine to meth, and extraction to a solid.
The anhydrous ammonia method uses sodium, potassium, lithium batteries, muratic acid, sulfuric acid, naphtha, starter fluid hydrogen chloride gas and other chemicals in the processing. The red phosphorus method uses the following chemicals in the manufacturing: iodine, red phosphorus (matchbox strike plates), hydroiodic acid, muratic acid (used to remove rust or iron oxide from steel), sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide, charcoal lighter fluid, acetone and chloroform.
Methamphetamine laboratories are clandestine operations that consist of the apparatus and chemicals the manufacture methamphetamine. Typically these laboratories are dirty, dangerous sites that are filled with highly toxic chemicals. They are set up in homes, motel rooms, restrooms, storage sites, apartments, abandoned homes, houseboats, trailers or shacks. The sites are incredibly toxic to the people who work in them and also to people in the vicinity. They are usually identified by the terrible stink of the chemicals which linger long after the lab has been abandoned or dismantled.
Meth labs are often unlivable after methamphetamine has been manufactured in them due to the hazardous, toxic vapors that stay in the furniture, walls, floors and airspace. This can stay for a long time after the lab has been dismantled. The chemicals may corrode bathroom and kitchen fittings, destroy carpets, damage walls and furniture. The smell of these chemicals is extremely difficult to get rid of and many landlords find their properties are almost irrevocably damaged.
Sadly, many methamphetamine laboratories are set up in homes where children and animals also reside. The dangers of the chemicals to young children and animals are is not fully known, but there could potentially be long term health problems as a result. Additionally, the risk of explosions and fires during methamphetamine production is very high and these unwilling participants are often the ones injured or worse in these instances.
Methamphetamine production is incredibly dangerous to both manufactures and the wider community. Many of the substances used in the manufacturing process are ignitable, corrosive, reactive and toxic. Some react violently when heated, immersed in water, combined with other chemicals or handled. Typically, a methamphetamine cook is not a person who is an experienced scientist or chemist who is aware of the dangers and takes appropriate caution. More often, the cook is a person who is under the influence of the drug and has little knowledge of health or safety issues associated with handling chemicals.
The fumes from the chemicals used to produce the drug can cause serious problems to peoples nasal passages, lungs, brain and eyes. Additionally, the chemicals are highly flammable and fires as a result of the manufacturing are very common. Once a fire has started in a methamphetamine lab it is very difficult to put out and is harmful to those in the immediate area. For police and emergency services workers, methamphetamine poses many serious and hazardous health and safety risks when they are responding to a fire or explosion in a lab.
The by-products of meth are also very dangerous and easily corrode or react. Many illicit methamphetamine producers dump this waste product into lakes, streams, on the ground or leave it for unsuspecting people or animals to find in bottles or bins. This potentially can cause irreversible damage to animals, plants and even children if they were to come across these chemicals.