What effects result from the use and/or manufacture of methamphetamine?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classify methamphetamine as a Schedule II drug. It is highly accessible and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
Methamphetamine is an addictive central nervous system stimulant, which dangerously speeds up the heart and blood pressure to uncontrollable levels. Possible chronic health effects from exposure to methamphetamine lab residue can include disorientation, respiratory irritability, behavioral changes, neurological damage, liver damage, or kidney damage. Acute health effects from exposure to meth lab contaminants can include dizziness, lack of coordination, shortness of breath, chest pain, and chemical irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, or mouth. The drug is potent, and so exposure to a small amount could cause adverse health effects.
Methamphetamine production consists of the mixing of volatile solvents, corrosives, reactive metals and ephedrine/pseudo-ephedrine. Such reactions off-gas various residues and produce approximately six pounds of waste for every pound manufactured. In Indiana meth labs have been found in homes, apartments, hotel and motel rooms, mobile homes, restaurants, sheds, stores, and motor vehicles. Clean up is required in Indiana if the methamphetamine contamination is above 0.5 µg/100 cm2. Meth residue-contaminated properties need to be properly evaluated and decontaminated before being categorized as habitable by a public health official.
The largest contaminant left behind from a meth lab is the drug itself, methamphetamine. Like smoke damage, toxic droplets and particulates from the methamphetamine production process deposits chemicals and methamphetamine residues on interior surfaces including: walls, ceilings, floors, doors, cabinets, and furniture. Porous items such as carpet and upholstery readily absorb the meth residue and remain in the fabric unless removed by decontamination. Residues also remain on non-porous materials, contaminating forced-air heating/cooling (HVAC) and plumbing systems.
There are three key exposure pathways to meth residue including inhalation, absorption through the skin, and ingestion through hand to mouth contamination. Residue can cause a variety of health problems, especially for those at risk, the elderly, the infirm and children. Young children are a particularly high risk population because they spend approximately 80%-90% of their time indoors and are more likely to be playing on surfaces that would retain residue, i.e., furniture, carpets. Toddlers are especially susceptible to exposure through the hand-to-mouth pathway (particularly in children who are teething).
Adverse health effects have been reported by law enforcement personnel and other first responders who have been at the scene before the property was ventilated. If you are aware that meth has been manufactured at a property, do not enter the property.
- Indiana State Police Methamphetamine Brochure
- National Institutes on Health: National Institute on Drug Abuse: DrugFacts-Methamphetamine Abuse
- Indiana State Police (ISP): What does Methamphetamine look like?