Drug and Alcohol

How to Make Meth: Toxic Ingredients & More

How do you make meth? It's made from a toxic, dangerous stew of chemicals. Learn more about meth, what's in it, and it's effects in our blog.

How to Make Meth: Toxic Ingredients & More

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

March 9, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Anyone who's watched an episode of Breaking Bad, heard a report about meth labs, or wondered about the drug itself has likely wondered how to make meth. What is it about this drug that is so powerful?

Methamphetamines, also known by various other names such as meth, crystal, crystal meth, ice, and more, is a very potent stimulant that, when abused, can potentially be fatal. Its potency also makes meth overdose unfortunately common.

Like many other drugs used for medication, meth can also be used to treat patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), under the brand name Desoxyn. Meth is more famous for being used for recreational purposes rather than as a prescription medication. 

What Is Meth?

Meth was first developed in 1919 in Japan from its parent drug, amphetamine. Meth significantly impacts the working of our central nervous system (CNS). In terms of meth's basic characteristics, it is a white, odorless, crystalline-like powder with a bitter taste. Because of its ease of solubility in water, many individuals attempt to combine it with alcohol and achieve a better high. 

Earlier, meth was primarily used in nasal decongestants and inhalers. Like other stimulants like amphetamine, methamphetamine also increases talkativeness, lowers inhibition, decreases the user's appetite, and gives them euphoria-like feelings. But this does not mean amphetamine and meth are the same.

There are a few distinctions between the two. Meth is more potent as more of this drug reaches the brain. Similarly, with more amounts reaching the brain, this drug has a dangerous effect on our central nervous system. It is also more lasting than the parent drug.

Meth abuse is very prevalent in the US. Meth is classified under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II stimulant. This means it is legally available via prescriptions that cannot be refilled. Also, the chances of getting a prescription for meth are very less as even though it is sometimes used as a controlled medication; it is rarely ever prescribed to anyone. 

Meth is sold in different forms:

  • Powdered form: Meth in powder form is generally known as speed. It is a white or off-white colored powder and is considered the least potent form. This powder can be combined with other substances, such as glucose, to increase potency. Speed can be made into pills and snorted, swallowed, or injected into the body. 

  • Crystal form: Meth in crystal form is generally known as ice. It is a crystalline form of substance that is either white or translucent in appearance. It is generally smoked or injected into the body. Crystal meth is the most potent one of all.

  • Base form: The base form of meth goes by terms such as paste, wax, and pure. It is more potent than meth in powder form but less than crystal. It is a damp and oily substance in appearance and looks white, brown, or yellow. It is either swallowed or injected into the body.

Meth is known by a wide variety of street names:

  • Crystal

  • Crank

  • Crissy

  • Tweak

  • Ice

How to Make Meth: What Is Meth Made Of?

Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are the main ingredients utilized in making meth. These are mixed with other chemicals or cutting agents in the process. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are usually taken from OTC cold medicines or medications prescribed for weight loss. 

The authorities have regulated the sale and purchase of some of these ingredients, especially prescription medications involved in the production of meth. 

How Is Meth Made?

According to a 2019 report from the DEA, the passage of the 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA), which restricted the availability of key ingredients used in the production of meth, was able to decrease large-scale domestic manufacturing of this dangerous substance significantly. Unfortunately, this motion hardly affected the level of meth consumption in the U.S. Cheaper strains of meth were being produced in Mexico using alternative and even more dangerous ingredients. These were then transported to the U.S. and distributed in great quantities, wreaking havoc on the nation. 

Even though industrial-scale production of meth has stopped to a certain extent in the country, small-scale production in labs is still on the rise. These labs illegally produce meth by combining its two main ingredients- ephedrine and pseudoephedrine with other constituents such as water, phosphorus, acetone, and Freon. These elements are either very deadly or highly combustible, or both. After that, the concoction is mixed with a solvent like gasoline and is heated to form crystals. 

Almost every chemical used in the manufacturing process of meth is hazardous and poisonous enough on its own. Even the whole process of illegally producing meth is volatile and unsupervised. Most of the time, the people involved in the production are users of meth themselves or make it to sell it illegally and earn huge profits. Both situations are horrible since these labs are not subject to quality control. They often add several hazardous cutting agents to dilute the drug. Some of them are:

  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): a powder that is known to help with joint pain, skin health, inflammation, allergies, etc

  • Sulfur: It comes from ephedrine sulfate. It gives meth an orange tint. 

  • Phosphorus: It is an extremely dangerous chemical. It gives meth a slight purple tint

  • Amphetamines or other stimulants: The red tablets contain red dye, which can give meth a brownish or red tint

  • Copper salts: Give meth a green tint. 

Fentanyl or other synthetic opioids are sometimes added to meth stashes as a way to cut them.

Following is a list of hazardous and harmful household items that are used by "home cooks" in the process of making meth:

  • Battery acid

  • Phosphorus from matches 

  • Iodine crystals

  • Acetone from nail paint remover or paint thinners

  • Chloroform

  • Alcohol

  • Lithium from batteries of a vehicle 

  • Energy drinks 

  • OTC medications 

  • Anhydrous ammonia from cleaning liquids 

  • Gasoline or benzene

  • Toluene from the car's brake fluid 

  • Hydrochloric or sulfuric acid from drain cleaning detergents or liquids 

  • Freon from air conditioning units

Dangers & Risks Involved in Making Meth

The chances of combustion and fire during the heating process are very high. The debris or remains left after the production part is over are also quite flammable and unstable. The manufacturing process of meth is also known to create huge amounts of toxic waste. The U.S. Forest Service mentions that producing 1 pound of meth will likely create around six times the waste. 

Many negative implications for the physical well-being of the cooks and the people around them accompany the creation of meth. While touching the various corrosive or dangerous chemicals might harm the skin and eyes, inhaling fumes during the manufacturing of methamphetamine can result in severe damage to the lungs. It can also cause other respiratory issues in anyone around the cooking site. 

Here are some common meth ingredients and why they're dangerous:

  • Anhydrous Ammonia: This nasty-smelling gas can cause suffocation by filling the lungs with fluid.

  • Acetone/ethyl alcohol: Extremely flammable solvents; inhaling the fumes can be lethal.

  • Freon: Can cause heart attacks and/or lung damage if inhaled.

  • Red phosphorus: Friction can cause this substance to explode. It also explodes if it gets too warm.

  • Lithium: Lithium can severely damage skin and other tissues. If it touches water, it can explode.

These and other dangers are why meth labs need hazmat crews to clean up. As of 2023, mass meth production is rare in the US. Most meth available on the street is made in so-called "superlabs" in Mexico.

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How Does Meth Affect a User?

Meth is an addictive stimulant that can lead to addiction even after just one use. Knowing that meth is addicting has led to questions about how and what happens when you abuse meth. Meth is a stimulant that elevates dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a molecule involved in motivation, the rewarding process, learning, and memory retention. It also plays a role in the perception of pleasure.

Meth generates more dopamine than the body naturally does, providing users with heightened awareness. This explains why people keep looking for the same enjoyable sensation.

Dangers of Meth Use

How to Recognize Meth Abuse Signs

We have established, by now, that meth is a hazardous drug that can severely impact your health. But due to the subtle and complex makeup of meth, it can be hard to recognize a growing addiction. If you suspect that someone close to you might be dealing with meth addiction, there are various signs to look for. Recognizing these signs is important as they can save someone's life.

To educate you, we have listed some vital warning signs indicating that someone might be getting addicted to meth.

Physical Appearance

Physical appearance is one of the most noticeable and major changes in a meth user's look. One of the obvious giveaways can determine whether someone is abusing drugs or not. Along with the fact that they appear worn out, exhausted, and unmaintained, you may be able to note that their teeth have gotten worse. Meth addiction can cause tooth decay, which can cause the gums and teeth to deteriorate. Also, their grooming will suffer, and they may stop caring about hygiene altogether.

Moreover, their body will have trace markings or sores. Their eyes will appear red, bloated, and even glassy. In some cases, people have noticed that meth abusers have massive hair fall and sudden weight loss. 

Another telltale sign of abuse includes the deterioration in the areas they were once thriving. For instance, one may notice someone suddenly getting low grades or an employee failing to meet deadlines once the quick decision-maker is now struggling to meet even basic expectations, etc. Meth abuse can also lead to money-related problems.

Mental Symptoms

Friends and families of people who abuse meth can notice sudden mood shifts in their son, friend, daughter, husband, or father. Extreme mood swings are another sign of meth abuse. This is especially more recognizable in the once cheery and optimistic personalities. However, their enthusiastic personality will be taken over by meth abuse, and they will start behaving erratically. Their volatile mood can range from sudden outbursts, shouting matches, irritation, etc. The reason is that meth can make a person increasingly annoyed, paranoid, and anxious. 

People who abuse meth can also start behaving in a way that might be totally out of their character. For instance, a person with a lot of self-esteem and pride can end up begging, borrowing, or stealing from someone. This is because the priority of someone abusing methamphetamine is the drug only. Due to this, there is a strong possibility that they would put everything else behind the need to get high. You will also notice that they prefer isolation over mingling with friends and family. 

Lastly, you will also notice something that is known as tweaking. This is a behavior that meth abusers often exhibit. When a person binges and consumes methamphetamine for a prolonged time, they will show severe symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia, irritation, insomnia, etc.

What are the Symptoms of Meth Abuse?

Meth abuse can have many side effects, and it can be challenging to recognize an abuse growing into an addiction, but you can look out for the following symptoms. 

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Strange & risky behavior patterns

  • Increased levels of energy

  • Aggressive or violent behavior

  • Lying, cheating, or stealing

  • Trying to get access to other drugs or prescription-based stimulants

  • Trying to buy stimulants without a prescription

Physical symptoms:

  • Suppressed appetite

  • Skin issues 

  • Itching

  • High body temperature/fever

  • Unwarranted tics or jerks

  • Faster heart rate

  • Massive and sudden weight loss

  • High blood pressure 

  • Rotten or decayed teeth

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Heightened focus & attention

  • Increased awareness of the surroundings

  • Confusion

  • Paranoia 

  • Delusions

  • Hallucinations 

  • Anxiety

  • Mood shifts 

  • Depressive thoughts and feelings 

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Do you have more questions about what's actually in meth? Reach out.

Meth Abuse Treatment & Recovery

Meth abuse is a serious cause for concern and cannot be treated by self-medication. A person has to seek a drug rehab center to get comprehensive treatment. Recovery from meth dependency or other substance abuse is impossible with a single treatment session. Often, people fail to recover even after multiple attempts. They face relapses and dejection. But this does not mean they must stop trying. Help is available and must be accessed when you have a problem. 

The treatments that are available for meth abuse are:

  • Medical Drug Detox

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

  • Contingency Management (CM)

  • Matrix Model

  • Aftercare recovery problems like support groups, group therapies, etc

For people struggling with alcoholism or substance abuse disorders, enrolling in a drug rehab program is the best way forward. 

Drug rehab is a medical institution that is built for those people who are dealing with addiction and abuse disorders. Addiction is a chronic health condition that only is stabilized and managed in a secure surrounding of drug rehab. Inpatient drug rehab and outpatient drug rehab, especially when combined, are very effective in helping people leave meth addiction behind.

Meth is Toxic and Dangerous. The Edge Treatment Center Can Help

When people make meth, it's rarely done with safety in mind. Meth's toxic ingredients are just one way this drug is one of the most dangerous drugs to abuse. Fortunately, meth addiction is treatable.

The Edge Treatment Center uses evidence-based treatment to help put meth addiction in your past. We'll be at your side through drug detox and more. When you get to our outpatient drug rehab, we'll help you continue to build on your progress. You'll have every resource you need to leave meth addiction behind, permanently.

Contact The Edge Treatment Center today to learn more.

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