Methamphetamine, also known as meth, crystal meth, or ice, is very powerful stimulant that can be produced in homemade labs. In his book, Methland, Nick Reading wrote that meth had a “seeming distinctiveness among drugs” because of “the general resistance to associating narcotic use with small towns.” While most drugs have been associated with urban centers, meth is a small town, blue collar drug, that can be made practically anywhere.
So if meth is the middle-American small town drug, where exactly is it being made? This interactive map shows meth production statistics across the US by county. Position your mouse over the map to see the number of meth labs local authorities have identified in a particular area.
As you can see from the map major metropolitan areas like New York City, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia have low to non-existent meth production in their counties. A closer look also shows that around the counties with the highest number of labs, meth production also increases in the neighboring areas.
How is Meth Made
Meth is a synthetic chemical, which means that the final product is synthesized from other chemical products. The process of making meth is commonly called “cooking”. The main ingredient, or precursor drug, in its production is pseudoephedrine which comes from ordinary over the counter cold pills. The process of synthesizing meth from cold medicine is considered to be easy, but producing a high-grade product is more challenging. Because it is a do-it-yourself process the purity of the final product varies considerably.
Meth cooks use chemicals to improve the potency of their merchandise, chemicals like lantern fuel, drain cleaner, antifreeze and battery acid, are all common. These secondary ingredients are all potentially explosive, and many meth manufacturers have been severely injured or killed when their labs exploded. These risks are further increased by the fact that the cooks may be on meth and disoriented themselves.
According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, for every pound of methamphetamine produced 5 to 6 pounds of highly toxic waste are left over. The EPA also says that during cooking residues can be trapped in porous building materials like carpets, furnishing, and drywall. Lab sites are generally contaminated and have to be cleaned up by a Hazardous Materials Team, and prove to be dangerous to the surrounding community.
Which Areas in the US Are Most Affected By Meth Manufacturing
Tulsa County, in Oklahoma, has the highest number of identified meth labs in the United States. 979 contaminated lab sites have been discovered there, and the Tulsa Police Department cleaned up 690 sites in a 26-month period. An article on PolicyMic.com says the clean ups cost the department $118,560,000.
Second on the list is Jefferson, Missouri which identified 472 labs. On top of the meth cooking sites, the Missouri Highway Patrol made meth seizures in 2011 of 37,295 ounces.
Other US counties with a high number of labs are: Summit, Ohio with 335 sites, Kalamazoo, Michigan with 318 sites, and Kanawah, West Virginia with 235 sites.
With all the dangers associated with methamphetamine manufacture, the cost of cleaning labs up, and the devastating effects addiction has on communities, it is clear that meth is a big problem. What isn’t so clear is the solution. Sale of cold pills has been regulated in most states, but beyond this it is a tough problem to solve. Lured by quick and easy money, both users and cooks can be very resourceful. The strong incidence of addiction in meth users also makes the problem grow exponentially, the more meth there is, is directly proportional to the number of meth addicts there are.