Meth Production Site: Not Really a Laboratory
Sites that produce methamphetamine may be called laboratories, but they bear
little resemblance to legitimate pharmacologic laboratories.3 The
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines a clandestine laboratory as an
illicit operation consisting of a sufficient combination of apparatus and chemicals
that either has been or could be used in the manufacture or synthesis of controlled
substances. In a methamphetamine laboratory, the cook often
handles ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic chemicals in the presence
of an open flame or heat source. (See What Is
Methamphetamine?) Some of these substances are extremely harmful or lethal
when inhaled or touched; others react violently when they are heated, immersed
in water, exposed to air, or combined. Although clandestine labs use a number
of manufacturing methods, all produce volatile chemicals and toxic vapors that
present significant health and safety hazards to the meth cook, children, and
others who enter the site, including law enforcement personnel and other members
of the response team. People in the surrounding community also may be at risk.
The long-term effects of exposure to some of these substances have not been established.
However, many of these chemicals are known to damage vital body organs or to
cause cancer and other adverse health conditions.
Illegal meth laboratories can be set up wherever activities may be hidden from view, often in locations that are especially dangerous to children, such as sleeping areas, eating areas where food is also stored and prepared, and garages.4 These makeshift labs and their dangerous components (for example, chemical containers and electrical wiring) have been discovered in vehicles of all types, hotel and motel rooms, storage lockers and units, mobile homes and surrounding areas, apartments, ranches, houses, campgrounds, rural and urban rental properties with absentee landlords, abandoned dumps, restrooms, houseboats, and other locations. Meth can be produced in as few as 6 to 8 hours using apparatus and cookware that can be dismantled rapidly and stored or relocated to avoid detection.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, or meth, is the fastest growing drug threat
and the most prevalent synthetic drug manufactured in the United
States. Refined manufacturing has significantly increased meths
strength. Called crank, speed, go fast, ice, or crystal, methamphetamine
can be injected, snorted, smoked, or ingested orally. Meth
is usually a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder that dissolves
easily in water. Crystal meth is often clear; it is found in
large chunky crystals that are smoked. Methamphetamine users
initially experience a short, intense rush that is followed
by a sense of euphoria lasting up to 8 hours. Methamphetamine
use increases heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature,
and rate of breathing. It produces extra energy and stamina,
an increased libido, a sense of invulnerability, and a decrease
in appetite. Chronic, high-dose methamphetamine abusers may
exhibit increased nervousness, paranoia, schizophrenia-like
symptoms, irritability, confusion, and insomnia. Violent and
erratic behaviors frequently occur in the last phase of meth
bingeing. Withdrawal from high doses of meth invariably produces
depression, which varies in severity and duration but may last
for months or even years.
This highly addictive, synthetic central nervous system stimulant
is produced using chemicals extracted from readily available
products. These products include over-the-counter cold medicines
and diet pills and household products like lithium camera batteries,
matches, tincture of iodine, and hydrogen peroxide. Flammable
household products, including charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline,
kerosene, paint thinner, rubbing alcohol, and mineral spirits,
may be used in the mix. Corrosive products, such as the muriatic
acid used in pools and spas, sulfuric acid in battery acid,
and sodium hydroxide from lye-based drain cleaners, also may
be used in the manufacturing process. In rural areas where
anhydrous ammonia is used as a fertilizer, farmers are increasingly
finding their ammonia tanks have been tapped by cooks using
this highly toxic chemical to produce meth.
|Children at Clandestine
Methamphetamine Labs: Helping Meth's Youngest Victims