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What Goes into Making Crystal Meth?

man preparing meth in a labWhat is Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)?

Methamphetamine (N-methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine) is a powerful stimulant drug. Commonly known as crystal meth, it was developed in the 1800s and has a long history of use, both recreationally and medicinally. The drug is covered under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, limiting its legal distribution.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) classifies methamphetamine as a Schedule II controlled substance. This classification indicates that while the drug does have some medicinal uses, it is also potentially extremely dangerous, highly addictive, and prone to producing physical and psychological dependence in individuals who use it on a regular basis. Powerful and potent medicinal stimulant drugs like methamphetamine are used in the control of sleep disorders like narcolepsy and developmental problems like ADHD. In some cases, they can be used to stimulate people who have conditions that make them very lethargic, such as those associated with strokes or other brain injuries.

Crystal meth has become a relatively common drug of abuse due to its ability to work quickly, produce extreme euphoria, and be easily manufactured. Individuals who abuse meth smoke it, snort it, mixed it with water and inject it, or take it orally. The drug has a fast onset of action, and often, its intense effects dissipate rapidly, resulting in abusers continually bingeing on the drug. Crystal meth has received much attention because it is often made in home laboratories that use easily obtainable substances to produce it.

The DEA reports that methamphetamine abuse is still a significant problem in the United States. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), other street names for methamphetamine include methicechalkcrankglass, and crystal. On the street, it often appears as clear or bluish crystals or shards of glass. Some forms of street meth can be viewed at the DEA’s website.

Ingredients Used to Make Street Meth

Abusers of methamphetamine can easily find various recipes that are used to produce the drug. Crystal meth can be made from products found at most drugstores, although there have been attempts to limit access to some of the mandatory ingredients, such as ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. This mixture of combustible ingredients and certain psychoactive ingredients can produce methamphetamine in a form that can be easily ingested.

According to the DEA and NIDA, the most common ingredients used to produce methamphetamine in meth labs include:

  • Ephedrine/pseudoephedrine: These ingredients are found in various cold medications and in some diet aids. These substances have obvious medicinal uses; however, in very large quantities, they have detrimental effects. They can lead to cardiovascular problems and respiratory issues, and can affect the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).
  • Acetone: This is often found in paint thinners and even nail polish remover. It is highly combustible.
  • Anhydrous ammonia: Forms of anhydrous ammonia are found in cleaners and fertilizer.
  • Hydrochloric acid (HCL): Sulfuric acid can be extracted from drain cleaners to be used to make crystal meth.
  • Iodine: This can be found in many topical medications.
  • Lithium: Found in car batteries, lithium is often an ingredient in crystal meth.
  • Lye (sodium hydroxide): This ingredient is very corrosive.
  • Phosphorus: This can be found in matches, road flares, etc.
  • Toluene: This corrosive substance is found in brake fluid.

Other ingredients in crystal meth may include alcohol from various sources, batteries, benzene, chloroform, ether, Freon, energy boosters or energy drinks, and gasoline.

The process of making crystal meth typically involves extracting ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from cold or diet medication and then adding lithium and ammonia (or red phosphorous and crystallized iodine) with water. Then, some type of solvent is made to extract the meth, and it is heated with acid to form crystals. The process makes quite a bit of toxic waste, and is extremely dangerous due to the very corrosive and flammable nature of the products. Heating the solvent often results in explosions.

What is Shake and Bake Meth

Drug abusers can be very resourceful. According to Discovery, a rather quick and easy method to make meth (compared to traditional production methods) has recently become very popular among meth abusers. The shake and bake procedure requires mixing the chemicals in a glass or plastic bottle, such as a soda bottle, and then shaking it vigorously.

The combination of chemicals used to make meth is highly combustible, and this can result in explosions when the person opens the bottle. In addition, used bottles are extremely volatile and can produce fires or explosions when discarded.


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Be on the Lookout for Meth Labs

There are some warning signs that an apartment or house may be involved in the production of illegal methamphetamine. Based on the reports given by the DEA, some of the signs of a meth lab could include:

  • Blocked or darkened windows
  • Excessive security warnings or security features, such as numerous signs (e.g., no trespassing, beware of dog, private property, etc.), numerous security cameras or surveillance devices, etc.
  • Various empty containers, including antifreeze containers, drain cleaner containers, pool acid, etc., in the trash.
  • Hoses hanging from windows (used to ventilate the house)
  • An overwhelming smell of solvents
  • Very secretive occupants or numerous visitors at all times
  • Occupants who often appear suspicious or appear never to sleep
  • Hot plates, stoves, or blowtorches inside the house
  • Lab equipment like glass tubes, plastic tubes, laboratory heaters or Bunsen burners, or numerous plastic containers inside
  • Copious bottles of cold medicine, diet aids, ammonia, camping fuel, or solvents
  • Melted pots and pans
  • Numerous protein tanks or starter fluid containers
  • Large amounts of cat litter and few cats around
  • Lots of empty coffee filters, Mason jars, or other glass containers

Per the DEA, contact local authorities if it is suspected that there is a meth lab in your neighborhood. Do not try and intervene.

Other Drug Compositions: Cocaine, Heroin,Ecstasy, LSD