Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Production of Crystal Meth

Illicit “Meth” (methamphetamine) may include common products such as drain cleaner, cold tablets, antifreeze, lantern fuel, battery acid, salt, and Lye.

Meth manufacturing involves mixing or combining such products and is extremely dangerous. These chemicals, when combined, are potentially lethal and toxic. When such common chemicals are mixed, exposure during the manufacturing process can damage the central nervous system, liver and kidneys and can burn or irritate the eyes, nose, throat and skin. When co-mingled, the chemicals and fumes will saturate the walls, carpets, plaster and wood in meth labs, and the surrounding soil; they (the fumes) are also known to cause cancer, short-term and permanent brain damage and are a catalyst for adverse effects on the immune and respiratory system.

The profit margin of meth production is incredible; that’s why so many “cooks” are users themselves and only sell off a portion of the finished product to live on and supplement the cost of ingredients for the next batch.   You might be interested to know that a $200.00 investment will yield an ounce of product which may be sold to users for $1,200.00 to $1,600.00.   With margins so lucrative, it’s clear why non users are so often attracted to the production “business” of meth.

Meth labs may be found most anywhere: In houses, commercial buildings, cabins, mobile homes, storage buildings, RVs, caves, abandoned mines, federal and state parks and even the back seat of cars. The concoction is so easy to make and the components are so cheap that many industrious users simply make their own at home in used two-liter soda bottles.

Crystal meth makes the new user feel great, initially at least, and for as long as 12 hours. Meth is typically smoked, snorted, or ingested. It has a powerful physical and mental quality that causes the developing addict to rely on meth more and more to archive the feeling of euphoria.  Many areas of life, such as personal hygiene, family, work, and other responsibilities become less important as the high that makes the person feel good decreases following repeated use, resulting in a need for a higher dose. 

Meth is often used by teenagers who simply want a little extra boost when studying for a test and by young girls who want to reduce their weight.   And let’s not forget the guys who think a little “extra” out of a sexual experience just might be neat which is generally thought to be achieved with use.  Fact is, meth users come from all walks of life:  students, professionals, city folk, dirt poor or rich folk, in other words, any member of society with any ethnic background; point being “poor mans cocaine” is not an accurate portrayal of meth.

Higher doses have a profound effect on the brain, and because the user cannot get that initial rush, as indicated above, the brain’s ability to produce the chemical compounds that produce feelings of euphoria are weakened from repeated use. So in the “long haul” the desire for that pleasure rush changes into a craving for simple normalcy.  Within a few weeks this leads to a vicious cycle, in which, all that the continued use of crystal meth achieves is a break from withdrawal symptoms.            

Throughout the experience, Methamphetamines continually ravage the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, and even the brain. Extended use can cause permanent psychological damage, stroke and failure of other organs. It’s not uncommon for meth addicts to hear voices and see people and things that other folks don’t see or hear. Mothers to be give birth to “crack babies” often with cardiac problems, cleft palates, or various other birth defects; who enter life saddled with the burden of withdrawal at the most tender age in life.

The Birch reduction, also called the “Nazi method”, became the popular production method in the mid-to-late 1990’s and was the bulk of methamphetamine production as recently as 2002 in the US.   This process reacts with pseudoephedrine (cold tablets), liquid anhydrous ammonia (farm fertilizer), and an alkali metal such as sodium and lithium which is a co-product in common disposable batteries; when the reaction is permitted to “stand” until the ammonia evaporates, “crystal meth” remains.  However, the Birch reduction is quite dangerous because the alkali metal and ammonia are both extremely reactive, and the temperature of liquid ammonia makes it susceptible to “explosive boiling” when the various products are combined (similar to “shaking” a bottle of cola just before opening it). This has been the most popular production method in the Midwestern states of the U. S. because of the readily availability of liquid ammonia fertilizer in farming regions.

For the past several years, a simplified “Shake ‘n Bake” one-pot mixture has become more popular. The method is suitable for small batches so pseudoephedrine (congestion relief meds) restrictions that may exist in a few areas are not a problem.  This manufacturing or cooking process uses chemicals that are easier to obtain and the process is so easy to perform some addicts have acknowledged making meth while driving.  A quick description of the “batching” process  involves placing crushed congestion relief meds like Sudafed tablets for example into a non-pressurized container such as a used 2 liter cola bottle containing ammonium nitrate (fertilizer), water, a hydrophobic solvent such as charcoal lighter fluid, and sulfuric acid (Liquid Plummer).  These are mixed with lye, lithium (from lithium flash light batteries), and salt. Hydrogen chloride gas is produced by a chemical reaction of the salt with sulfuric acid (Liquid Plummer) which will recover crystals. Throughout the process it is important to “burp” the 2 liter bottle now & then to prevent a rupture of the bottle from occurring as a result of accumulating pressure, if not, the sudden exposure of the lithium to the open air can spark a flash fire; that’s why an abandoned reaction (batch) is such a severe hazard to firefighters.  

Because producing methamphetamine in this fashion can be extremely dangerous it has been linked to several accidents and numerous fatalities.  Meth producers frequently complete the chemical reaction inside two-liter bottles that are held close to their bodies during the burping process; since the bottle(s) can potentially explode if the cap is removed too soon or if it accidentally bursts, it’s not too terribly surprising to learn that the procedure has led to a large number of severe burns.

The bad news for the un-knowing / naive non meth user is that chemical residues and lab wastes are left behind in former methamphetamine labs. This can result in severe health problems for folks who use the property after exposure to meth; for this reason local health departments should thoroughly assess suspected properties for hazards prior to allowing them to be re-inhabited.  You should be aware that making or even smoking meth leaves behind a stew of chemicals that saturates walls, ceilings, floors and carpets with meth as well as lead, iodine, mercury, lithium and other poisonous solvents.

Some health experts say it’s possible to cleanup a former meth environment such as a lab, by spraying “Simple Green” all-purpose cleaner on all hard surfaces in the exposed area(s) and wiping them down with towels. Next, if carpeted, it must be replaced after all staples are pulled from the wood. The flooring (carpeted or not) must be scrubbed with a floor cleaner and Simple Green.  However other health experts say the only safe approach if to simply dismantle the contaminated structure and replace it.

If you think you need a decent (but not fail-safe) test kit; they can be found on-line. Cost: $9.00 to $35.00. A positive reading shows that a place has a meth residue problem.  SKC Methchek uses a method developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that allows you to see the test results instantly. Cost: three tests kits for $109, one test kit for $35.00; they do offer discounts for volume purchases.  On the other hand a very amateurish and less reliable testing method may be accomplished with a simple spray bottle filled with “holy water” . . . (just kidding, tap water will do).  By spraying exposed areas with water, the Iodine residue will turn crimson red.

Sources:                                                                                                                   http://realestate.msn.com/how-to-avoid-buying-a-meth-house                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_meth#Illicit_production                                        http://www.skcinc.com/prod/560-002.asp                                                http://www.clermontsheriff.org/MethLab3.aspx                                          http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/23207.php                                                    http://crystalmetheffects.net/



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