Methamphetamine use, abuse, and addiction has been a widespread problem across the United States for years. Meth is a synthetic drug that typically is manufactured in what has become known as “meth labs.” The manufacture of meth itself is a dangerous enterprise that involves the use of hazardous substances. Indeed, the process of making meth itself is highly dangerous and can result in serious injury and even death to what are known as “meth cooks.” In addition, the aftermath of a meth lab is highly contaminated property that presents a serious health risk to anyone that comes into contact with it. Because of the expansive dangers associated with meth labs, the protection of the public’s health requires an understanding of the prevalence of these operations in the United States.

States in Which Meth Labs Historically Have Been Most Commonplace

The states in which the most meth labs are believed to be in operation is somewhat a fluid statistic. In other words, what is now a state in which meth lab activity is high may not be in that position at this time next year. With that said, over the course of more than the past decade, a number of states have consistently been among the ones with the largest number of meth labs:

  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Florida
  • Oklahoma

Meth Labs by the Numbers

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, did an exhaustive study of the prevalence of meth labs in the country over the course of a dozen years. As a result of that comprehensive research, the DEA reported that over 118,000 meth labs were discovered during that 12-year period of time. 

2018 is the last year in which a full set of data is available in regard to seizures involving meth production and sales. The top 10 states in the country in which the most meth manufacturing-related seizures occurred are:

  1. Michigan
  2. New York
  3. Indiana
  4. Illinois
  5. North Carolina
  6. California
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Tennessee
  9. Ohio
  10. Florida

What is interesting about this list is that it is also highly fluid. For example, for many years Missouri was considered the proverbial “meth capital” of the country and it’s not among the top 10 in this particular year. A number of other states have had the dubious distinction and aren’t on this list any longer. As of 2018 Michigan was the state pinned with the “meth capital of the county” distinction based on the rate of manufacturing and sales-related seizures in that state. 

Meth Labs in Economically Depressed Locations

Not surprisingly, meth labs usually “popup” in economically hard-pressed locations. These include districts in urban areas that feature low-cost motels, lower-end mobile home courts, and abandoned commercial and even industrial buildings. 

With that said, a more recent trend has started to develop where meth labs are being found in other parts of communities as well. This particularly has become the case with empty homes that have been taken over by a lender after a foreclosure and vacant rental properties. 

Meth cooks or manufacturers are taking advantage of these vacancies no matter the location of a community in which they can be found. A meth cook will break into such a property and spend what may amount to a few days “cooking meth.” When that process is complete, the cook abandons the property, which is now contaminated as a result of meth being produced at that location. 

In some cases, a meth cook will remove any evidence of meth manufacturing. As a result, the fact that a property is contaminated by meth and other harmful substances may not be readily apparent. 

National Clandestine Laboratory Registry

The United States Department of Justice established the National Clandestine Laboratory Registry, a directory that lists the addresses of locations where law enforcement agencies across the country reported finding chemicals or other materials that indicated the presence of an illicit drug lab. In this day and age, the Registry primarily focuses on meth labs and what are known as fentanyl mills. 

The Registry was created by the Department of Justice as a public service. The directory is quite comprehensive and provides a relatively user-friendly resources at which a person is able to ascertain whether a certain property in the country might have been identified by law enforcement as having been contaminated. The website includes properties that were used as:

  • Meth labs
  • Fentanyl mills
  • Dumpsites for materials and equipment used in manufacturing these illicit drugs

If a member of the public has questions about a listing in the directory, that individual is able to reach out to a local law enforcement agency or health department for more information or confirmation of what is listed in the Department of Justice Registry. If someone finds incorrect information within the Registry, that individual can contact the Department of Justice at NCLR@usdoj.gov to report the problem.