Substance Use

Crystal Meth: How It’s Made

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

cooking meth in home pouring liquid chemistry

How Is Crystal Meth Made? Ingredients and Cutting Processes

Whether you watched the TV series or not, you’re probably aware that Breaking Bad made meth labs a common setting for their characters and stories. If you were a fan, you probably learned more than you ever expected to about how meth is made.

Street or slang terms include crystal, ice, crissy, tweak, and crank. Meth, or methamphetamine (N-Methyl-1-phenylpropan-2-amine), is a potent, highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that has an intense euphoric effect and can increase wakefulness and activity and decrease appetite. The DEA classifies meth as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has some medical uses (including the prescription methamphetamine Desoxyn, used for weight loss and ADHD) but may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

If you or a loved one finds themselves, taking increasing amounts of meth to get the same effect, trying to reduce the use of the drug without being able to, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug (sweating, paranoia, insomnia, hallucinations, stomach pain, tremor, red/itchy eyes, and more), this may be an indicator of meth abuse and addiction.

It takes bravery and strength to ask for help for addiction. Whether you find yourself, or a loved one, abusing methamphetamines, seek help right away. Zinnia Healing can provide a full continuum of care that is tailored to each person’s unique needs. Medically supervised detox, group, individual, or family therapy, partial hospitalization, outpatient programs, aftercare, and sober living can all be addressed with Zinnia Healing’s recovery programs.

Are Meth Labs Still a Major Problem in the U.S.?

According to Statista.com, the number of reported meth lab “incidents” has decreased dramatically in the last two decades from a high of over 23,000 in 2004 to under 1000 in 2019. A 2019 report from the DEA1 indicates that the passage of the 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) reduced large-scale domestic methamphetamine production significantly by placing restrictions on key ingredients.

However, NIH researchers found2 that the number of overdose deaths involving “psychostimulant drugs other than cocaine” (mainly meth) rose from 5,526 in 2015 to 15,489 in 2019, an increase of 180%. Unfortunately, this is because meth is now being manufactured on an industrial scale in Mexico with cheaper and more readily available ingredients, and the U.S. is consuming this meth across the nation — to disastrous effect.

In addition, since large labs are not feasible anymore in the U.S., production has morphed into small, one-off production runs often called “shake and bake” or “mom and pop” labs. The dangers and hazards left behind3 from these pop-up spots are still extremely dangerous to law enforcement, landlords, children in the home, volunteers cleaning up watersheds or roadside trash, etc.

Common Methamphetamine Laboratory Hazards

  • Pseudoephedrine — Ingestion of doses greater than 240 mg causes hypertension, arrhythmia, anxiety, dizziness, and vomiting. Ingestion of doses greater than 600 mg can lead to renal failure and seizures.
  • Phenylpropanolamine — Ingestion can cause hypertension, arrhythmia. Larger quantities over 300 mg can lead to renal failure, seizures, stroke, and death.
  • Acetone/ethyl alcohol — Highly flammable. Inhalation or ingestion causes severe gastric irritation, narcosis, coma.
  • Freon — Inhalation can cause sudden cardiac arrest or severe lung damage. Highly corrosive if ingested.
  • Anhydrous ammonia — This colorless gas with a pungent, suffocating odor causes lungs to fill with fluid, leading to asphyxia.
  • Hypophosphorous acid — Overheating can release deadly phosphine gas, creating fire and explosion hazards.
  • Lithium metal — Caustic to all body tissues. Explosion and fire hazard when combined with water.
  • Hydriodic acid — Corrosive acid. Vapors damage the respiratory system, eyes, and skin. Ingestion causes severe internal damage that can kill.
  • Red phosphorus — Explosive with any friction. Will explode if heated above a certain temperature.
  • Iodine crystals — Vapors affect lungs and eyes. Solid may burn skin. Ingesting damages tissues and internal organs.

What Ingredients Are in Meth and How Is Meth Made?

In small-scale home labs in the U.S., over-the-counter cold medicines that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine serve as the base for this drug. These components are then cooked with chemicals like acetone, freon, and phosphorous; water is added; then a solvent like acetone is heated to extract methamphetamine. The heat creates crystals.

Nearly every chemical used to create meth is poisonous, flammable, or extremely hazardous to humans. The meth manufacturing process is completely unstable, and those making meth are often users themselves, thereby increasing the dangers of these haphazard home cooks.

A few examples of the dangerous household items containing chemicals used in meth production are:

  • Acetone, from paint thinner or polish remover
  • Battery acid
  • Iodine crystals
  • Phosphorous, extracted from flares or matches
  • Ether or chloroform
  • Anhydrous ammonia from household cleaners
  • Sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid from drain cleaners
  • Energy drink instead of OTC medications
  • Toluene from brake fluid
  • Freon from air-conditioners
  • Alcohol
  • Benzene or gasoline
  • Lithium from car batteries

How Is Meth Made in the U.S. and Who Is Making It?

As mentioned, large-scale production of meth is no longer a major problem in the U.S., as massive labs are now producing meth for the U.S. market in Mexico. However, there are still small home-based labs operating around the country. Missouri has the most meth production per capita than any other state, but following behind Missouri, labs have been widely reported in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

What Substances Can Be Added to Cut Crystal Meth?

Although a great deal of methamphetamine sold on the street is most likely not significantly diluted like other drugs such as heroin or cocaine, there are products that can be added to increase the volume of the drug and reduce the actual psychoactive substance. Some cutting agents for meth include:

  1. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) — a powder that is sold for use in reducing joint pain, lowering inflammation, improving skin health, decreasing allergy symptoms, and speeding recovery after exercise
  2. Amphetamines — the red dye from these tablets can create a reddish or brown tint
  3. Phosphorous — creates a purple tint
  4. Sulfur — creates an orange tint
  5. Copper salts — creates a green tint

What Other Drugs May Be Combined With Meth?

There is an alarming new danger recently identified by the DEA. At the end of September 2021, The Drug Enforcement Administration warned the American publicof the “alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.”

The DEA further reports that “International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting Americans. These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl.”

These pills are being sold as fake opioids and painkillers like Vicodin or Oxycodone, even Xanax, and often contain meth and fentanyl in lethal doses.

As far as other drugs being added into powdered or crystal meth, the danger is not so much other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Instead, the chemicals used to create meth are the sources of highly toxic additives or waste products being “left in” the final meth product.

How Do You Recognize the Signs of Meth Abuse?

Physical deterioration can be frighteningly rapid in meth abusers. The damage associated with chronic abuse of methamphetamine may not be fully reversible. Individuals may suffer significant organ and brain damage as a result of chronic methamphetamine abuse. The substance itself is corrosive, and individuals experience major issues with their skin and teeth (see below) after using the drug for even a short period of time. Inhaling meth causes significant lung damage and respiratory issues. The central nervous system effects of methamphetamine create significant neurological issues as well as cardiovascular issues, liver, and kidney damage.

People who are addicted to meth can have some severe, devastating, and obvious symptoms:

  • Meth mouth — using meth decreases the amount of protective saliva in the mouth. Meth users often grind their teeth and clench their jaw, and their teeth begin to rot and fall out.
  • Crank bug — meth users often report a syndrome where they hallucinate the sensation of bugs crawling on or under their skin, and pick or scratch to get rid of the imaginary bugs, leading to open sores and infection.

How Is Meth Addiction Treated?

There are no FDA-approved medications to treat addiction to methamphetamines, but a recent study showed promise when patients in clinics around the U.S. suffering from methamphetamine use disorder were given a combination of naltrexone and bupropion (versus a placebo.) The treatment helped 13.4% of patients with their addiction compared to 2.5% of the placebo group. Patients seeking help should ask their addiction team about this treatment option.

Addiction is so much more than a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Treatment for meth use disorder must include learning coping skills through therapy with skilled professionals. Once you have eliminated the substance from your body, you will need time, support, and tools to overcome that physical and mental dependence.

So many social activities, friends, and family units have inherent triggers that can push you into relapsing back into drug, alcohol, or other substance use. If you commit and take time to recover in a protected setting like Zinnia Healing, you will gain the strength, knowledge, and tools necessary to deal with all the stressors in your life without using or abusing substances like household inhalants.

How Can Zinnia Healing Help People Who Are Experiencing Meth Addiction?

Zinnia Healing offers partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment services. However, the first step in any recovery process is reaching out for treatment. Whether starting with inpatient detox or outpatient detox, your treatment begins by asking for help.

It only takes a simple phone call to (855) 430-9439, a message through our website, or a Facebook message5 to begin admission. This process can definitely be overwhelming. At Zinnia Healing, we understand how hard this step can be, so we work hard to make the process as comforting and straightforward as possible. It’s helpful to gather all your current and previous health information before calling us. The following is our process and the steps necessary to join us at Zinnia Healing.

1. Pre-Admissions Process:

  • Zinnia Healing staff will ask about a person’s drug and alcohol history and current situation.
  • Other medical conditions will be disclosed and discussed
  • The list of doctors a person is seeing will be gathered
  • Discuss prior treatment history (if any)

2. Next, a Zinnia Healing staff member will discuss programs at our facility to see if there is a suitable match for your needs

3. Should Zinnia Healing be a good fit, insurance information will be discussed. If you don’t have insurance, there may be private self-pay options or even possible scholarships. There may be a waiting list, or we may be able to take you in right away.

4. Admission: Immediately after arriving at the recovery facility, each person undergoes a comprehensive health assessment. Addiction professionals will discuss a person’s substance abuse history, relevant mental and physical health conditions, and family life. Then, you will be provided with our policies and rules.

5. Treatment Length: the length of treatment varies greatly depending upon the substance used, the length of time using, and the presence of co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

How Can Zinnia Healing Help Me?

Zinnia Healing is an industry leader in substance abuse treatment care. We adhere to the highest standards and utilize cutting-edge research findings in all of our methodologies and levels of care including:

  • Detox
  • Inpatient care
  • Outpatient care
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Individual, group, family, and nature therapy

Types of Therapy Offered at Zinnia Healing

Group Therapy

Our intensive group therapy sessions offer the opportunity for:

  • Psychoeducational groups (education about substance abuse)
  • Skills developmental groups (learn the tools you’ll need to break free from addiction)
  • Cognitive-behavioral groups (rearrange patterns of thinking that lead to addiction)
  • Support groups (a forum where members can supportively challenge each other to debunk “excuses”)
  • Interpersonal process group (members help each other process the relational and other life issues that were previously escaped through addictive substances)

Family Therapy

We offer family therapy work to include:

  • Family engagement (begins the conversation and involves family and the individual in the recovery process)
  • Relational reframing (rather than placing all the blame of addiction on the child, family therapy will emphasize the root causes of the addiction and move the source of some issues from internal to external)
  • Family behavioral change (enabling communication, rules, and limits; with room to express how everyone is feeling)
  • Family restructuring (this process can help break down barriers and establish an environment that encourages open communication)

Nature Therapy

Our unique, holistic approach includes nature therapy (also called green or eco therapy):

  • Nature meditation
  • Horticultural therapy (gardening and plant care)
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Physical exercise outdoors (yoga, hiking, etc.)
  • Conservation (taking action to help preserve nature)

What Steps Can You Take Right Now?

The desire to stop using drugs or alcohol is essential to begin a lifelong recovery path. Reach out to our staff at Zinnia Healing. We have a wide spectrum of programs and resources to help people with substance abuse issues.

Please visit our website to learn more about our programs and the treatment options available. Our facilities enable you to find refuge from the stresses and triggers of the everyday world in order to work on self-care, rest, therapy, and taking back control of your life.

  1. In most cases, if a person has a substance abuse disorder, recovery begins at the detox stage. Medical monitoring of this stage reduces the risks to mental and physical well-being.
  2. Following medical detox, Zinnia Healing’s treatment options include inpatient rehab in a residential treatment program, outpatient rehab, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and sober living homes.
  3. The intensity of these treatment program options ranges significantly, from outpatient counseling to intensive inpatient therapy.

Conclusion

The Zinnia Healing Network6 of addiction and mental health services focuses on treatment paths that include detox and stabilization, residential/outpatient/partial hospitalization options, holistic and family approaches, and unique LGBTQ+ program tracks. Please call, message, or email us today to begin the process of freeing yourself from the prison of addiction.

  1. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/2019-NDTA-final-01-14-2020_Low_Web-DIR-007-20_2019.pdf
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2021/09/methamphetamine-involved-overdose-deaths-nearly-tripled-between-2015-to-2019-nih-study-finds
  3. https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs7/7341/index.htm#hazards
  4. https://www.dea.gov/alert/sharp-increase-fake-prescription-pills-containing-fentanyl-and-meth
  5. https://www.facebook.com/zinniahealthcare
  6. https://zinniahealth.com/