Understanding the comprehensive range of hazards associated with methamphetamine, having a basic understanding of the most commonly followed methods of meth production can be helpful. Meth production is also known as meth-making or cooking meth. Meth has been and remains a major health crisis in California and across the United States. There are a trio of ways in which meth presents health issues in the United States:

  • Meth use
  • Meth manufacture
  • Meth contamination

A large segment of the population generally is aware of how meth use and even manufacturing cause health issues. On the other hand, a significant number of people are not fully aware of how serious of an issue meth contamination is at this juncture in time. This type of contamination arises not only when a meth lab is operated but also when people smoke meth. 

According to people familiar with illicit meth production, including law enforcement officials, addiction treatment professionals, and criminal experts, there are three ways of making meth that most commonly are used:

  • Red phosphorus method
  • Birch method
  • Amalgam method

What Is Meth?

Before turning to a discussion of the primary ways of making meth, understanding some basic information about this drug is important. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines methamphetamine as being “a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system.” 

Meth is known by a variety of different names, some of the most common of them being:

  • Blue
  • Ice
  • Crystal
  • Speed
  • Crank
  • Rocket Fuel
  • Tina
  • Scooby Snax

There is also an array of slang terms associated with getting high on or using meth:

  • Getting geared up
  • Chicken flipping
  • Hot rolling
  • Getting fried
  • Getting Foiled
  • Tweaking
  • Zooming
  • Getting scattered
  • Spun out

Three of the most common ways of ingesting illicit meth are:

  • Injection
  • Snorting
  • Smoking

Red Phosphorus Method

The red phosphorus method of manufacturing meth is also known as:

  • Red P
  • HI
  • Red, White and Blue
  • Ephedrine

The red phosphorus method of making meth relies primarily upon ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as the main ingredient in the process. There is a significant list of other chemicals that may be associated with the red phosphorus process of making meth:

  • Hydriodic acid
  • Hydrochloric (muriatic) acid
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • Sodium chloride (salt)
  • Red phosphorous
  • Iodine
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol (ethanol)
  • Methyl alcohol (methanol)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Naptha (Coleman Fuel)
  • Charcoal lighter fluid
  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Ethyl ether (starting fluid)
  • Freon
  • Hydrogen chloride gas
  • Chloroform

Some of these substances are hazardous to varying degrees on their own. Others become dangerous when blended with others during the meth-making process. 

The red phosphorus method of meth manufacturing is the most commonly used methodology followed today. The complete recipe for making meth in this manner is not presented here because no legitimately useful purpose for doing so exists. Rather, it suffices to note that the red phosphorus method of manufacturing meth involves the creation of the drug from ephedrine via reduction using hydriodic acid and red phosphorus. This process is highly dangerous due to the volatility of the mixture, sometimes resulting in devastating explosions. 

Birch Method

Like the red phosphorus method of making meth, the birch method is also known by other names that include:

  • Ammonia
  • One Pot
  • Shake n Bake
  • Nazi

The potential chemicals that may be used in the birch method of making meth are:

  • Anhydrous ammonia
  • Lithium metal
  • Sodium metal
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol (ethanol)
  • Methyl alcohol (methanol)
  • Hydrogen chloride gas
  • Hydrochloric (muriatic) acid
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Sodium chloride (salt)
  • Toluene
  • Naptha (Coleman Fuel)
  • Freon
  • Ethyl ether
  • Chloroform
  • Methyl ethyl ketone

The birch method uses either ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, sodium or lithium and anhydrous ammonia as two possible sets of primary ingredients. 

The birch method is becoming more popular in this day and age as a means of making meth. This increase in popularity is occurring because the birch method is a rapid and inexpensive way to make meth. This method of making the drug necessitates less set up time as well as less equipment. The belief among people familiar with this illicit drug is that the birch method produces a high yield of methamphetamine. 

Amalgam Method

The amalgam method of making meth garnered some attention among the general public. The notoriety of this process occurred because it was the method of choice in the popular television program Breaking Bad. 

The ingredients in the amalgam method include phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) and methylamine as precursors. Other ingredients potentially used in the amalgam method include:

  • Mercuric chloride
  • Aluminum, hydrochloric acid
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Methanol, ethanol
  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Chloroform

Each of these different ways of making meth present dangers in and of themselves. These different courses of manufacturing this drug also result in potentially serious hazardous contamination when the meth-making process is completed. As a consequence, a space in which methamphetamine was manufactured requires professional meth decontamination in order to restore the premises to a safe and usable condition.