The award-winning TV series Breaking Bad not only contains plot, humor and great characterization, it happens to expose a billion-dollar industry with deadly product. But just how accurate is the series when it comes to the meth industry? Here are a few comparisons of differences and similarities.
Super Labs Are Real
Chemistry teacher Walter White prefers a well-stocked, pristine lab full of brand new equipment. Skeptics say that the real world of meth production is not about cleanliness and modern technology, it’s about money and drugs. However, experts on the meth market say that in actual fact, super labs are pretty common.
They began in Mexico, where the criminal justice system is more lax, but smuggling meth across the border proved too risky. Eventually the cartels moved into US-based super labs, where production and distribution go hand-in-hand.
And yes, they truly could be set up anywhere–a barn, a garage, a bedroom, or a laundry in New Mexico.
Methylamine is Not That Tough to Get
Much of the show’s plot revolves around Walt and his right-hand man Jesse seeking methylamine, a precursor chemical. While most common meth recipes contain pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in cold medicines like Sudafed, recent restrictions have made it difficult to obtain. As a result, manufacturers have turned to alternative recipes relying on methylamine.
The truth is, Walt and Jesse needn’t have gone through all their shenanigans to acquire methylamine, because it can be produced in-house. The chemical methylamine can be produced using ammonia and methanol. Perhaps Walt and Jesse merely wanted to avoid attracting attention by purchasing large quantities of ammonia and methanol, but they certainly caused more of a ruckus by attempting to get their hands on methylamine. Makes for some good conflict, though.
Pure Isn’t Always Better
In Breaking Bad, Walt perfects the recipe for meth, producing what he calls his “Blue Sky” recipe. As triumphant as that may seem in the context of the show, this doesn’t follow a parallel in the real world. For the consumer, this may be valuable–but for the dealers, diluted is better.
It all breaks down to economics. The market for pure meth is limited because manufacturers are constantly cutting their goods in order to carry them farther and give them better profits. Opposing views argue that dealers would merely charge more for a purer brand, but it is unlikely that much of it would even make it on the street.
Mexican Cartels Really Are As Dangerous As They’re Made Out to Be
The gruesome violence in the series is not merely for show. For example, in an early episode, two protagonists use acid to melt a body. As grisly as this may seem, it is a fairly common disposal technique in Mexico and has earned the name “guiso” or “stew.”
Another plot line contains Walt and Jesse’s fear that they will be disposed of if someone else learns their meth recipe. This kind of drama is also not unusual. For example, a group of American ecstasy producers recently experienced the same situation with a Mexican drug cartel. As soon as they realized that they were to be disposed of when they had shared their recipe, they ended their negotiations.
The Truth About Meth
The dark world portrayed in Breaking Bad is, in fact, based on a very real world of meth addiction and its devastating ripples across the world. Meth is one of the most addictive and toxic drugs on the market, and its effects are darker than you could imagine.