Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly toxic, powerful central nervous system stimulant with a potential to become an addictive drug. Some of its street names include crank, crystal, speed, chalk, glass, and ice. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested. Manufacturing, distributing, or possessing meth is illegal.
Effects of Meth
The abnormal release of chemicals in the brain associated with feelings of well-being cause meth's rush. But when the drug wears off, these brain chemicals are so low that meth users eventually become incapable of feeling good, happy, or experiencing any pleasure without taking more meth. And the amount of meth they need to feel pleasure increases over time, so that even large doses of meth produce insignificant highs.
Some of the effects of meth on users include agitation, excited or impaired speech, decreased appetites, hyperactivity, paranoia, hallucinations, heightened sexual activity, sudden and violent behavior, acne and sores on the skin, severe depression, memory loss, increased heart rate and body temperature, sleep deprivation, convulsions, seizures, stroke, and death.
Learn more about the adverse effects of meth from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Illegal Meth Labs
A meth lab can be set up using common household equipment and chemicals. The different ways of making meth can involve explosives, solvents, metals, salts, and corrosives. Meth labs have been found in homes, sheds, barns, motel and hotel rooms, outside in the woods, and in car trunks. Manufacturing or "cooking" meth can leave behind large amounts of toxic waste.
Over-the-counter cold and allergy medications can be used as an ingredient to make meth. To prevent meth cooks from buying large amounts of these medications, our state joined the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx). The NPLEx system, used by pharmacies and law enforcement, tracks the sales of over-the-counter medications that contain ingredients which could be used to make meth.
Dangers of Meth Labs
Toxic chemical fumes, spills, explosions, and fires make meth labs dangerous places. Meth cooks, their family members, and first responders are often the ones who are injured (or worse) in illegal drug labs. Waste dumped from meth labs can expose people to toxic chemicals. People picking up litter on the side of a road have been injured from meth lab waste dumps.
Exposures to high levels of contaminants found in meth labs can cause shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, dizziness, lack of coordination, chemical irritation, and burns to the skin, eyes, mouth and nose, and in severe cases, death. Symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue have occurred in people who entered a meth lab after the bust was completed, but before the property was properly cleaned and ventilated. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider.
Not much is known about the long-term health effects from these labs. Long-term exposure to meth labs is a big concern, especially for children living in a very contaminated environment. However, there is scientific evidence from animal and human toxicity studies that shows the chemicals used in the manufacture of meth can cause a range of health effects. These include cancer, damage to the brain, liver and kidneys, birth defects, and reproductive problems, such as miscarriages.
Signs of an Illegal Drug Lab
Alone, these activities or signs may not mean that illegal drug activity is occurring. However, some or several of them happening together may indicate a problem.
- Strong chemical odor coming from house, garbage, or detached building.
- Visitors come and go throughout the day and night and stay for short periods of time.
- Extra efforts to cover windows or have extensive security, such as reinforced doors.
- Deterioration of property and excessive amounts of trash, such as large amounts of antifreeze, drain cleaner, and glass containers.
- Appear to have plenty of money but don't seem to go to work - drive expensive cars, pay rent or bills with cash.
- Never take trash out to be collected or put garbage in another neighbors collection area.
- Residents come outside to smoke cigarettes.
- Children and pets of the home appear to be neglected.
- Residents act unfriendly, paranoid, or appear secretive about their activities.
If you suspect illegal drug lab activity is occurring, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Anonymous Meth Hotline (1-888-609-6384).
Preventing Drug Labs on Rental or Motel/Hotel Property
- Property owners and landlords can conduct background checks on potential tenants and visit their property regularly. See the brochure, Preventing Drug Labs on Rental Property (PDF).
- Motel and hotel owners and managers need to be aware of guests that pay with cash, are local residents, and appear to be using drugs. See the brochure, Preventing Drug Labs on Motel and Hotel Property (PDF).
If a House or Property is Contaminated by a Drug Lab
- Contact your local health agency for guidance and information regarding the contaminated property. Only your local health agency can determine if a property has been properly decontaminated.
- No one should enter a place that has been used as an illegal drug lab without appropriate personal protective equipment unless the area has been ventilated and decontaminated.
- No one should rent, purchase, or otherwise occupy a house or dwelling which has been used as an illegal drug lab until the property has been decontaminated. The state Department of Health certifies companies and individuals who cleanup drug labs. View a list of certified drug lab cleanup companies.
- Knowledge of whether or not a property has been decontaminated should be considered when deciding to rent, purchase, or occupy a property which has been used as a drug lab. No decontamination procedure can guarantee absolute safety for reoccupancy.
- General questions about drug labs and contaminated properties, contact your local health department.
- To report suspected illegal drug lab activity, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Anonymous Meth Hotline (1-888-609-6384).