What is a Meth Lab?
A meth “Lab” can exist in private residences, rental homes, motel rooms, garages, campgrounds, moving vans, storage facilities, horse trailers, houseboats, and commercial establishments. This illegal production does more than just produce an addictive and deadly drug, it also puts the surrounding community at a significant risk.
Methamphetamine is a particularly unique and dangerous drug produced in clandestine laboratories or meth labs using a variety of ingredients available in stores. The manufacturing of methamphetamine is called "cooking". A meth lab can be housed in a motor home, house, campsite, apartment, hotel room or even in the trunk of a car Meth "recipes" are easy to obtain from other cooks and from the internet. There are hundreds of chemical products and substances that are used interchangeably to produce meth. Every meth "recipe" starts with over-the-counter medications that include pseudoephedrine or ephedrine in their contents. The pills are crushed and mixed with other chemicals in the process of cooking meth. Various meth recipes include combinations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), acids, bases, metals, solvents and salts. Making meth with these chemicals can result in explosions, chemical fires, and the release of toxic gases.
The substitution of one chemical for another in meth recipes may cause the cooking process to be more hazardous (resulting in fire or explosion) or may result in a finished product with unwanted or dangerous effects. Cooking a batch of meth can be very dangerous due to the fact that the chemicals used are volatile and the by-products are very toxic. Meth labs present a danger to the meth cook, the community surrounding the lab, and the law enforcement personnel who discover the lab. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention study on hazardous substance-release events found that methamphetamine labs caused injury to 79 first responders (police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and hospital personnel) in 14 States participating in the study.
Meth users and first responders are not the only ones who are affected by meth labs. These labs regularly blow up in ordinary neighborhoods, damaging ordinary people who may not even know what meth is. And then there's meth-related crime. Its victims aren't limited to users of meth either. The truth is you don't necessarily have to be involved with meth to feel its effects.
If you discover or suspect a meth lab: Do not attempt to investigate it yourself. Meth lab operators are often violent and dangerous. Furthermore, fumes of the materials used to manufacture meth and the meth itself can enter the body through the skin and respiratory tract. Professional enforcement officers use masks and "hazmat" suits and techniques when entering a suspected lab. If you stumble across a meth lab call 9-1-1 immediately. If you suspect a meth lab, you can call the Butte County Interagency Narcotics Task Force (BINTF) at either (530) 538-2261 or (530) 895-4244.
In addition to the dangers of active drug labs and possible harm caused by lab residues in uncleaned, former labs, meth use and manufacture is associated with:
- Increased crime, particularly property crimes, personal violence, child abuse and endangerment,
- Increased demand for medical and social services, including, foster- and short-term care, drug and psychiatric treatment, and various public health services,
- Increased demands on jails and jail services, fire department and law enforcement agencies,
- Additional strain on educators, parents and communities.
History of Meth
Used in World War II by Hitler to enhance soldier performance, meth was later used legally by college students, truck drivers, and athletes in the 1950’s. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act made meth a schedule II narcotic and greatly restricted the legal production of methamphetamine. Thus began an era that outlaw biker gangs produced and distributed it up and down the west coast. Hence, California, Oregon and Washington are veterans of the meth epidemic, which has now spread across the country. The history of meth in Butte County is rather unique in our state.
Meth’s individual ingredients
- Rubbing alcohol
- Cold pills
- Red phosphorous
- Cleaning products
- Battery acid
- Anhydrous ammonia (farm fertilizer)
- Engine starter fluid
- Drain Cleaner
How to Tell If Your Home is a Former Meth Lab
Meth isn’t only dangerous to the consumer; it’s also dangerous to the future occupants of the home where it was consumed, or even more, where it was cooked. Crystal Meth is created by combining very dangerous chemicals, such as ammonia, drano, and lighter fluid.
Sometimes, when something goes wrong, these substances explode violently. But even when they don’t, cooking meth releases poisonous compounds into the air that settle on carpets, walls, ceilings, and other surfaces throughout the home. In addition, for every pound of meth produced, five pounds of deadly waste are created.