Clandestine drug laboratories can be found all over the world and they are not always found in low income neighborhoods or in campers hidden in the woods. They are in your neighborhood and they are driving down your streets. Meth is a popular drug and is rapidly over taking cocaine (and its variants) as the drug of choice. These people are destroying their lives while chasing a high they can never obtain after their initial high. They learn to “cook” meth in order to get high and to sell to others to support their habit. But, they may also be exposing you and your family to toxic chemicals in their “tweaking.”
First, let us examine what meth is and a little about where it came from. Amphetamine was first synthesized around 1896 in Germany. In 1919, Methamphetamine was created from amphetamine in Japan. There were no medical uses for meth until 1934 when Benzedrine came out as a bronchial dilator for asthmatics. Germany found a great use by giving meth to soldiers because it made them eat less, sleep less, and fight harder. Japan found the same and issued it to their soldiers. The Axis was not alone since Great Britain and the US also issued the drug to soldiers and especially pilots on bombing runs.
After World War II, Japan had the first outbreak of meth use. Actual statistics are not available but public health was greatly affected by the usage. In the US it was found by the suburban house wife to keep her skinny and moving. Those houses stayed very clean and the men probably got quite worn out. In the 1960’s the drug was forced underground after Congress declared the drug as Schedule 2 (drug with limited medical application). Outlaw biker gangs first started cooking it up in P2P labs. The quality was low but the drug started to become more widespread. During this era the drug was prescribed for obesity, ADD/ADHD and asthma. By the 1980’s, people had developed the methods needed to make the drug at home from commonly available over-the-counter drugs and household chemicals. Some military applications still exist and there are some who say you can find it in the Air Force with the AWACS and tanker pilots.
That brings us to today where Sudafed, lye, lithium batteries, acid, salt and a soda bottle can generate meth anywhere in about an hour. It does not take a rocket scientist, and believe me when I say these people are not, to make this stuff. The process is simple and the outcome can become devastating when they set their house on fire next to yours.
There are four lab types that can be broken into two categories: Ammonia based and Iodine based labs. Ammonia labs are known as the one-pot (AKA Shake’n’Bake) and NAZI (AKA Birch Reduction). Iodine labs are known as Red P and Hype. We will begin by looking at the Ammonia based labs first.
Ammonia based labs can be dangerous but also forgiving. One-pot labs create ammonia fumes in the bottle by the reaction of ammonium nitrate (cold packs) and lithium. This reaction will “cook” the ephedrine into methamphetamine. The primary dangers in this lab are fire and/or an over-pressure explosion. The explosions generally are not very large but they can be dangerous. The Nazi method uses Anhydrous Ammonia which is quite dangerous. Meth cooks usually will steal this from farmers who use the product as a fertilizer. These labs are common in rural areas. Cooks will generally place the stolen Anhydrous into a Propane cylinder which is not meant for this type of product. The cylinders are prone to failure and anhydrous ammonia loves water which is the largest component of your body. This stuff will kill you or permanently harm you. Nazi labs are frequently found outside in coolers. These labs, when done inside of homes, can be cleaned up and the property could be made safe.
Iodine labs are much less forgiving because iodine fumes get into every crevice and onto every surface. These two lab types involve making iodine crystals by mixing iodine and hydrogen peroxide. This also creates the fumes which can cause respiratory disorders and even blindness by detaching your retina. Red P labs will mix the crystals with red phosphorus and then cook for a few hours to synthesize the meth. Hype labs will use hypophosphate and crystals to synthesize the meth. These labs basically destroy whatever property they are cooked in by leaving behind the iodine fumes. Meth cooks using these processes love cooking in hotel rooms and often will use the coffee makers.
Although the ammonia labs can be cleaned using traditional cleaning methods, the iodine labs will harm you and your family if you stay in a room that was used for cooking. How do you know if you are in a room that had an iodine lab? Carry spray starch in your travel accessories. Spray some starch on the walls in discrete places, spray in and around the coffee maker, and spray in the bathroom. If anything turns blue then you need to find another room. Do the same thing if you have property that you rent and never assume that “decent” people are not cooking this stuff.
If you are a farmer, protect your anhydrous ammonia behind locked access and utilize an alarm of some form. If you are a hunter and encounter a cooler in the woods (look for holes in the lid) do not open it and notify the police and hazardous materials team. When you exchange your propane cylinders for full ones make sure that the valves have no bluing visible. When you buy camp fuel make sure that the cans are not marked because some cooks will return the cans filled with waste from their meth lab. The markings will prevent them from getting their waste back when next they buy fuel.
Meth causes us all problems no matter how far we are removed from the “tweakers.” They are injured often and the hospital bills are paid by your taxes. Spending months in a burn unit ICU can cost you millions of dollars. Police, fire and state agencies are left to spend your money to clean up after these labs and to incarcerate those who cook the meth. The cost of clean up is not cheap and you pay the bill. Equipment and overtime costs can easily hit hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Here is a picture of products frequently found in a lab:
The products are bought together so often that Wal-Mart and Dollar General put them all together on one shelf. The only thing you need to get beyond this shelf is the ephedrine which is behind the counter. Remember those ID for ephedrine laws? Try to buy some and see if they check.
More to come later.