How is Meth Made?

How is meth made? Methamphetamine is most structurally similar to methcathinone and amphetamine. In illicit production, it is commonly made by the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. Most of the necessary chemicals are readily available in household products or over-the-counter medicines. Synthesis is relatively simple, but most methods involve flammable and corrosive chemicals, particularly the solvents used in extraction and purification. As a result, clandestine production is often discovered due to fires and/or explosions caused by improper handling of volatile/flammable solvents.

Most production methods involve hydrogenation of the hydroxyl group on the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine molecule. How is meth made? The most common method for small-scale methamphetamine labs in the United States is primarily called the "Red, White, and Blue Process", which involves red phosphorus, Pseudoephedrine or Ephedrine(white), and blue iodine which forms hydroiodic acid. This is a fairly dangerous process for amateur chemists. The red phosphorus production method can create phosphine gas, which is extremely toxic when inhaled. An increasingly common method utilizes a Birch reduction process, where metallic lithium is substituted for metallic sodium (due to the difficulty in obtaining metallic sodium). The Birch reduction is dangerous since the alkali metal and liquid anhydrous ammonia are both extremely reactive, and because the temperature of liquid ammonia makes it susceptible to explosive boiling when reactants are added. PS. Anhydrous Ammonia and Lithium/Sodium aka Birch Reduction has surpassed the 57-55% Hydriotic Acid (Catalytic Hydrogenation) as the most common method of manufacturing methamphetamine in the USA, and many believe this is the case in Mexico as well. You see the pictures of RP+I2=HI super labs that have been busted because they require much more complex of equipment thus breakdown time, exposure, etc. than a jar with LI + Nh3 incurs.

How is meth made?

A completely different synthesis procedure involves creating methamphetamine by the reductive amination of phenylacetone with methylamine, both of which are currently DEA list I chemicals (as are pseudoephedrine and ephedrine). The reaction requires a catalyst that acts as a reducing agent, such as mercury-aluminum amalgam or platinum dioxide, also known as Adams' catalyst. This was once the preferred method of production by motorcycle gangs in California, but DEA restrictions on the chemicals have made this an uncommon way to produce the drug today.How is meth made? Other less-common methods use other means of hydrogenation, such as hydrogen gas in the presence of a catalyst.

How is meth made and what does it smell like?

One of the more obvious signs of a production lab of methamphetamine in operation is an odor similar to that of cat urine. Meth labs can also give off noxious fumes, such as phosphine gas, mercury vapors, lead, methylamine gas, solvent fumes; such as acetone or chloroform, iodine vapors, white phosphorus, anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen chloride/muriatic acid, hydrogen iodide, lithium/sodium metal, ether, or methamphetamine vapors.

When performed by individuals who are not trained chemists, methamphetamine manufacture can lead to extremely dangerous situations. For example, if an amateur chemist allows the red phosphorus to overheat, due to lack of proper ventilation, phosphine gas can be produced. When produced in large quantities, the gas usually explodes, due to autoignition from diphosphine formation caused by overheating phosphorus.

Until the early 1990s, methamphetamine for the US market was made mostly in labs run by drug traffickers in Mexico and California. Since then, however, authorities have discovered increasing numbers of small-scale methamphetamine labs all over the United States, mostly located in rural, suburban, or low-income areas. The Indiana state police found 1,260 labs in 2003, compared to just 6 in 1995, although this may be a result of increased police activity rather than more manufacturing of the drug. Recently, mobile and motel-based methamphetamine labs have caught the attention of both the US news media and law enforcement agencies. The labs can cause explosions and fires, as well as expose the public to hazardous chemicals. Individuals who manufacture methamphetamine are often harmed by toxic gases. Many police departments have responded by creating specialized task forces with specialized training to respond to methamphetamine production scenarios. However, the National Drug Threat Assessment 2006, produced by the Department of Justice, found "decreased domestic methamphetamine production in both small and large-scale laboratories" but also stated that "decreases in domestic methamphetamine production have been offset by increased production in Mexico." They concluded that "methamphetamine availability is not likely to decline in the near term."

Since the passage of the methamphetamine act into law and therefore the increased difficulty of finding precursors, there have been manufacturing operations involving the extraction of methamphetamine from the urine of heavy users.

How is meth made and distributed?

A wide variety of groups are involved in the distribution of methamphetamine, from prison gangs and motorcycle gangs to street gangs, traditional organized crime operations, and impromptu small networks made up of users. Because of the ease of synthesis from over-the-counter medicines, clandestine manufacture is very common. The government of North Korea has supposedly been linked to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine, and allegedly plays a role in distribution networks throughout Asia as well as those in Australia and even in North America.

How is meth made and then sold on the streets?

In the U.S., illicit methamphetamine comes in a variety of forms, with an average price of $150 per gram of pure substance. Most commonly it is found as a colorless crystalline solid, sold on the street under the name crystal meth and a variety of other names. It is also sold as a less pure crystalline powder called crank, or in crystalline rock form. Colorful flavored pills containing methamphetamine and caffeine are known as yaba (Thai for "crazy medicine"). At its most impure, it is sold as a crumbly brown or off-white rock commonly referred to as "peanut butter crank." Methamphetamine found on the street is rarely pure, but adulterated with chemicals that were used to synthesize it. It may be diluted or "cut" with non-psychoactive substances like inositol.

How is meth made to create its effect on the user?

Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant which affects neurochemical mechanisms responsible for regulating heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, appetite, attention, mood and responses associated with alertness or alarm conditions. The methyl group is responsible for the potentiation of effects as compared to the related compound amphetamine, rendering the substance more lipid soluble and easing transport across the blood brain barrier.

Methamphetamine causes the norepinephrine and dopamine transporters to reverse their direction of flow. This inversion leads to a release of these transmitters from the vesicles to the cytoplasm and from the cytoplasm to the synapse, causing increased stimulation of post-synaptic receptors. Methamphetamine also indirectly prevents the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, causing them to remain in the synaptic cleft for a prolonged period. Serotonin levels are only weakly affected (ratio NE: DA = 2:1, NE:5HT = 60:1). It is a potent neurotoxin, shown to cause dopaminergic degeneration.

The acute effects of the drug closely resemble the physiological and psychological effects of an epinephrine-provoked fight-or-flight response, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, vasoconstriction (constriction of the arterial walls), bronchodilation, and hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar). Users experience an increase in focus, increased mental alertness, and the elimination of fatigue, as well as a decrease in appetite.

Meth Addiction Facts

  • Meth facts notes that methamphetamine is sometimes called the "poor man's cocaine."
  • Meth Facts: Meth is a neurotoxin, meaning it damages the nervous system. Meth use can cause dependence and addiction psychosis, stroke, dangerously high body temperature, and cardiac arrhythmia. Withdrawal often results in severe depression and paranoia.
  • An estimated 10.4 million Americans aged 12 or older used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetimes.
  • Eventually the pleasurable effects of meth stop. They are followed by unpleasant feelings called a "crash" that often lead a person to use more of the drug.
  • The effects of methamphetamine are much longer lasting than the effects of cocaine, yet the cost is much the same.
  • Methamphetamine can cause lots of harmful things, including inability to sleep, paranoia, aggressiveness, and hallucinations.
  • Meth facts show that heavy usage often takes the form of binges, known as "runs," in which the addict injects meth every two to three hours.