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Manufacturing of Methamphetamine

The ease with which methamphetamine can be manufactured is a major contributing factor to the increase in its use. Law enforcement officials identify and close hundreds of clandestine methamphetamine labs each year. Large operations produce methamphetamine in Mexico and California. Outside of these areas, small rural laboratories are more common. Rural areas are popular sites for production because strong odors are produced during manufacture. "Mobile labs" have begun to appear in a number of states, making seizures more complicated. The manufacture of methamphetamine is simple because it does not require agriculture, specialized equipment, or advanced technical training. It is easily "cooked" up by anyone in a makeshift lab hidden in mobile homes, warehouses, or even motel rooms. Congress enacted the Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996 to curb the production and abuse of methamphetamine by controlling the key chemicals necessary to produce the drug and by increasing criminal sentences for its possession and distribution. Methamphetamine hydrochloride is easily produced using ephedrine, hydroiodic acid (both controlled substances), or over-the-counter pseudoephedrine found in cold medication. Hydroiodic acid is a necessary ingredient in one of the major manufacturing processes. Although strictly controlled, it can be created by combining red phosphorous and iodine - chemicals that are not regulated. Recently, phenylpropanolamine has been used as a precursor chemical to produce amphetamine. However, this product is also marketed as methamphetamine.

The key ingredient of methamphetamine is ephedrine, a controlled substance. Because it is difficult to obtain ephedrine, drug dealers use pseudoephedrine, found in many over-the-counter medicines. These medicines are processed to remove buffers and produce ephedrine. Cash purchases of large quantities of red phosphorous and iodine (for hydroiodic acid) are made by drug dealers in order to produce methamphetamine. No federal regulations or quantity limitations control the sale of these chemicals; therefore, it is difficult for the DEA to track their possession. As part of the Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996, these chemicals, along with pseudoephedrine, have been added to the target list in the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act, CDTA. With the ability to track the sale of large quantities of these chemicals, the DEA will be able to identify major manufacturers of methamphetamine.


Poison from meth The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) identified clandestine laboratories in Mexico and California as the major sources of methamphetamine. Legal access to an abundant supply of chemical precursors in Mexico makes this country a major producer. The ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction method is common in Mexico because of the abundant supply of these chemicals. Organized crime groups operating in Mexico run major distribution channels. They have access to wholesale ephedrine sources of supply on the international market; they produce vast quantities of high-purity methamphetamine on a regular basis; and they already control established cocaine, heroin, and marijuana distribution networks through-out western, southwestern, and, increasingly, southern and Midwestern states.

Small, rural, locally controlled laboratories have become more prominent, especially in the Midwest. In Missouri, the DEA reports that many local entrepreneurs are women, who dominate production and teach others the production process. Once caught, they are tough to prosecute due to a tremendous backlog in testing confiscated substances.

No matter the size of the lab or who runs it, processing methamphetamine is dangerous. Ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic chemicals can cause explosions, fires, toxic fumes, and damage to health and environment. More information about manufacturing methamphetamine may be found in a NIDA monograph (Miller & Kozel, 1991). *Information provided by Missouri Department of Mental Health.

See also:

Sites and Links Against Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine FAQ

THIS SITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your health care professional if you have a specific health concern.


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