Meth lab exposure is more common than you think

Have you ever been exposed to methamphetamine?

If you don't use the drug, you probably think you're in the clear, but you could be wrong.

Meth labs aren't just confined to houses anymore.

Meth is a dangerous drug, but you don't have to be a user to be affected by it.

“Probably, people have gotten into meth labs and haven't really known it," says John W. Martyny, PhD, an associate professor at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO.

It's a scary trend. Meth labs are popping up in motel rooms across the country. Residues from a cook can linger for years.

“During the process of manufacture, it becomes aerosolized into the air and really coats all surfaces of the room," says Dr. Martyny.

Exposure can cause skin and eye irritation, asthma, and nausea - symptoms that can be easily written off as something else.

“Methamphetamine is rapidly absorbed throughout the skin as well as ingested in and inhaled," says Dr. Martyny.

One of the biggest concerns: kids.

“These little toddlers that are close to the ground end up with really, really heavy exposures, and at the same time, they have less body mass, and so every little bit affects them more than it does you," says Dr. Martyny.

Experts say if your motel room neighbor is making too much noise in the middle of the night, be wary about knocking on their door. Weapons are almost always found during meth lab busts.

The cost of testing and decontaminating a single hotel room can run anywhere from $2000 to $20,000.



METH IN MOTELS
REPORT #1614

BACKGROUND: Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant drug. Because it is highly abusive and highly addictive, meth is classified as a "schedule two" drug and is available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse. It has very limited medical uses and is served in doses much smaller than those used by abusers.
Used as an illegal drug, street names for methamphetamine include speed, meth and chalk. It can be presented as a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. Abusers can easily dissolve it in water or alcohol, take it orally, use it by needle injection, or take it by smoking or snorting. Most of the meth used in the United States is fabricated in super labs in Mexico, although smaller independent laboratories still exist illegally in the U.S.
COOKING METH: The ingredients of meth are more easily obtainable than one may think. The process can employ simple household ingredients and can typically be accomplished in less than four hours. Any determined user is capable of manufacturing the drug, but the safety aspect is a different story.
For every pound of meth cooked, nearly six pounds of toxic waste is created, according to Sierra magazine. Labs can be found anywhere from suburban houses to motel rooms to car trunks to campsites. Large labs can be made out of deserted barns or warehouses. Household-made meth can be concocted from the simplest of items including striker plates from matchbooks, the guts of lithium batteries, and drain cleaners.
For superlaberatories making meth in large doses, manufacture begins with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine powder.
This can be obtained through standard cold medicines. The pure pseudoephedrine is then mixed with red phosphorus and hydriodic acid, according to a Discovery article. After adding a binding substance, the liquid meth is drained out. To make the liquid into a salt-like form, hydrogen chloride gas is bubbled through the liquid meth. After being poured through a filtering cloth, the meth is dried on the filter. It is then mixed with fillers, and ready for use or sale.
MOTEL METH LABS: To avoid home contamination and risk for evidence at home, meth cooks have been renting motel rooms to use as a lab and even a place to sell from. According to the
American Hotel and Lodging
Association, methamphetamine labs can be set up and produced in less than four hours, which is typically done between midnight and 4 a.m. The room can be rented in the evening, and the dealer can be gone by the morning.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports finding evidence in 1,789 motel rooms for drug-making in the past five years. Experts say many more have gone unreported.
The drug will linger in the hotel room. Look out for skin irritation, vomiting, rashes, asthma problems and other respiratory issues -- all symptoms of even short-term exposure to meth. Dangerous contaminants can lurk onto countertops, microwaves, sinks and bathtubs.

For More Information, Contact:
John Martyny, Ph.D.
National Jewish Health
Denver, CO
martynyj@njhealth.org


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