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First developed in the early 1900s, methamphetamine was made by changing the molecular structure of its less potent parent drug amphetamine. Amphetamine, which had first been marketed under the name Benzedrine in 1932 as a nasal decongestant, became so widely used amphetamine "pep pills" could be bought over-the-counter. Amphetamines were reportedly used by soldiers fighting on both sides of World War II. (Sanello: 78) By 1954 amphetamines became available only by prescription.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified methamphetamine as a Schedule II stimulant. Under the brand name Desoxyn, the drug is sometimes prescribed by physicians for obesity, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and narcolepsy. (Sanello:33- 34)

In recent years however, due to the fact that methamphetamine is relatively easy to make, the illegal trafficking of the drug has increased dramatically. Methamphetamine use in the United States existed primarily in the 1980s among a small underground subculture of biker gangs, By 1992 however, it began to make a comeback in mainstream society, (Sonello: 77) Initially limited to a few urban areas in the Southwest, methamphetamine now has spread to most parts of the country. (NIDA: 1)

Street Terms

Methamphetamine is known by many different names. To name just a few:

Meth Tweak Crystal Tina Speed Crystal meth
Hot Ice Stove Top Sketch Chalk Ice Glass
Tick tick Super Ice Crank Lemon Drop Trash Crink

What It's Made Of

Of the 32 ingredients used to make methamphetamine, one third of these are considered "extremely toxic". (Sanello: 93) Consider the following ingredients used:

-- Ammonia: Considered a "deadly respiratory hazard" according to a 2000 FBI report. (Sanello: 80)

-- Sodium metal: Ignites when mixed with water. (Sanello: 80)

-- Sodium cyanide: Can turn into deadly hydrogen cyanide gas when added to other meth ingredients. (Sanello: 80)

-- Lead acetate: Can cause fatal lead poisoning. (Sanello: 80)

-- Red phosphorus: This highly flammable chemical is used in matchsticks and road flares. (Sanello: 92)

Other ingredients include the following: (Sanello: 79-80)

Hydrochloric Acid Drain Cleaner Battery Acid Lye Lithium Batteries Lantern Fuel
Liquid Fertilizer Iodine Lighter Fluid Ether Acetone Antifreeze

How It's Made

As one state prosecutor and antidrug expert explains, making meth is "as easy as making a batch of cookies." (Sonello: 80) Requiring only a few hundred dollars in ingredients and equipment and taking only six hours to brew a batch, meth labs have sprouted across the country in increasing numbers. Due to the strong odor created by the use of ammonia and ether in the manufacturing process (Sonello: 80), the remote areas of the American Southwest traditionally were popular locations for methamphetamine labs. (Sonello: 92)

More recently meth labs have begun to appear not only in remote areas, but in private homes, operating out of cars, and in hotel and motel rooms. (Sonello: 82) A 2002 DEA report showed that 309 of the 10,305 meth labs reported were in hotel and motel rooms. (Sonello: 83) Even business-class hotels are being affected, as a 2004 incident in Evansville, Indiana suggest. In that case, an explosion caused by a guest brewing meth in his bathroom resulted in the evacuation of 156 guest and about $120,000 in damage. (Sonello: 83)

The volatility of the chemicals used in the meth-making process can be illustrated by the fact that of more than 1,600 illegal labs shut down in 1998, 20 percent were first brought to the attention of local authorities because they blew up or burned down. (Sanello: 93) In addition to this danger, for every pound of meth produced, five or six pounds of toxic waste are created. (Sanello: 93) Often this toxic waste is simply buried in the ground or dumped in water sources, presenting serious environmental hazards as it can remain in the soil or water table for years. (Sonello: 95)


Accessibility | Privacy | ASU Disclaimer This site was created by Jason L. Kelley in fulfillment of requirements for the course CSS 335: Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Spring 2005.