How Crystal Meth Makes it on the Streets

People who abuse crystal meth for long periods of time can face a myriad of terrible consequences, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), including:

  • Severe tooth loss and gum disease
  • Paranoia or delusions
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat

Understanding why meth has the ability to cause so many terrible consequences means understanding more about how crystal meth is made. The drug’s ingredients may horrify users enough that they’ll be motivated to get the help they’ll need in order to recover.

Crystal Meth Ingredients and Production

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, most of the methamphetamine that hits the streets in this country is made in very large laboratories that are located in other countries. These so-called “superlabs” may make gigantic batches of crystal methamphetamine each and every day, and they may do a significant amount of damage to the environment in the process.

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The key ingredient in crystal methamphetamine is pseudoephedrine, which is commonly contained in over-the-counter medications sold to help people recover from head colds and sinus infections. Many states have passed laws requiring pharmacies to sell these medications with prescriptions, and only in small amounts, hoping this will stem the tide of meth production. However, other countries may not have passed these same restrictions, making overseas production relatively easy. Pseudoephedrine isn’t the only ingredient in crystal methamphetamine, however. The drug also contains a variety of nasty ingredients that most people wouldn’t even consider consuming or smoking, including:

  • Lantern fuel
  • Paint thinner
  • Kerosene
  • Battery acid
  • Brake cleaner
  • Lye
  • Acetone
  • Alcohol
  • Ether

In essence, producers take these ingredients through a series of chemical reactions, heating the resulting particles and then combining those particles with the next ingredient down the line. Some of the steps in this chain reaction can be incredibly dangerous, and methamphetamine labs have been attached to a series of explosions and fires, due to the inattentiveness of those who are making the drug. If all goes well, however, the highly concentrated form of crystal meth forms and is prepared for sale.


Local and DIY Labs

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, there were a total of 12,033 methamphetamine “incidents” in the year 2011. These include laboratories that were shut down, as well as laboratories that were abandoned, as well as dump sites found that contained meth-related residue. This represents a decrease from 2010, but it still indicates that there are many mid-level meth labs in the United States that continue to provide dealers with product to sell. The Houston County District Attorney reports that most large meth labs are located in California, but many more are being reported in the southeastern portion of the United States. These laboratories are relatively easy to set up, and the drugs can sell for a significant amount of money, so it makes sense that this would be a growing business in certain parts of the country.

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When meth labs go out of business, the homes in which the meth was produced must go through an extensive cleanup process. In fact, according to an article produced by USA Today, cleanup companies charge about $3 per square foot to clean up meth labs in Indiana. The toxins left over during the production of the drug can leave behind residue that can sicken neighbors, as well as the next tenants of the building. The CEO of Crisis Cleaning, one such company profiled in the article, states that the company has been called in to assist in high-income homes in downtown, as well as less fancy homes in rural areas. Meth production seems to be happening almost everywhere.

There are some people who choose not to do business with a dealer at all, and who make their own versions of methamphetamine for their own personal use. In fact, the Huffington Post reported that some users are making their own versions of meth using chemicals and a soda pop bottle. This is an incredibly dangerous practice, as one small slipup could cause the mixture to combust, and those left holding the bottle could end up with a significant amount of chemical burns on the hands and arms. There have also been reports of DIY methamphetamine production resulting in fires and the destruction of private property.

Selling Crystal Meth on the Street

The New York Magazine profiled a meth dealer in 2007, providing an interesting look at how the trade operates on the street level. This dealer reported purchasing a pound of meth from overseas producers, and he would then sell the drug in bulk to other associates, who would then sell the product to a series of small dealers. This structure is common for people who deal with illicit drugs. By separating themselves from the buyers in this way, and ensuring that they only know the people above them and below them, they reduce the risk that they’ll face law enforcement action if someone in the ring is convicted. Multi-layered rings help to insulate the dealers from the eyes of the police.

Crystal is still, reportedly, quite easy for most people to purchase. Since the drug is made in a laboratory, dealers don’t need to worry about droughts or pestilence. The drugs don’t come from natural sources, and the chemicals used to make the drugs are relatively easy to get. Most crystal meth users are remarkably loyal to their dealers as well, and they will pay almost any amount for the drug. The NIDA explains this by pointing out that crystal meth changes the way the brain functions, specifically the areas of the brain that are associated with emotion and memory. People who abuse meth may have difficulty in making good decisions, due to the drug abuse they have endured. They may even buy large batches of meth instead of buying food or paying rent on their homes.

Recovering from Abuse

While it’s true that crystal meth addiction is serious, and that people in the throes of addiction often have a hard time seeing an escape route, with help, these addictions can ease. The key is to enroll in a licensed program, and to stay in a safe place where crystal meth is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. Those who are able to do this are able to leave their addictions behind. This is the kind of help we offer at Axis, and we’d like to talk with you about our approach. Please contact us to find out more about how we can help you leave meth behind for good.