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Methamphetamine: Production and Distribution

Until the early 1990s, methamphetamine for the US market was made mostly in labs run by drug traffickers in Mexico and California. Since then, authorities have discovered increasing numbers of small-scale methamphetamine labs all over the United States, mostly in rural, suburban, or low-income areas. Indiana state police found 1,260 labs in 2003, compared to just 6 in 1995, although this may be a result of increased police activity. Recently, mobile and motel-based methamphetamine labs have caught the attention of both the US news media and the police. These labs can cause explosions and fires, and expose the public to hazardous chemicals. Those who manufacture methamphetamine are often harmed by toxic gases. Many police departments have specialized task forces with training to respond to cases of methamphetamine production. The National Drug Threat Assessment 2006, produced by the Department of Justice, found "decreased domestic methamphetamine production in both small and large-scale laboratories", but also that "decreases in domestic methamphetamine production have been offset by increased production in Mexico." They concluded that "methamphetamine availability is not likely to decline in the near term." In July 2007, a ship was caught by Mexican officials at the port of L?zaro C?rdenas, originating in Hong Kong, after traveling through the port of Long Beach with 19 tons of pseudoephedrine, a raw material needed for meth. The Chinese owner was found to have $206 million at his Mexico City mansion. It went undetected at Long Beach.

A rocket used by smugglers to quickly discard meth.

Meth Distribution

Methamphetamine is distributed by prison gangs, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, street gangs, traditional organized crime operations, and impromptu small networks. In the U.S. illicit methamphetamine comes in a variety of forms, at an average price of $150 per gram for pure substance. Most commonly it is found as a colorless crystalline solid. Impurities may result in a brownish or tan color. Colorful flavored pills containing methamphetamine and caffeine are known as yaa baa (Thai for "crazy medicine"). At its most impure, it is sold as a crumbly brown or off-white rock commonly referred to as "peanut butter crank." Methamphetamine found on the street is rarely pure, but adulterated with chemicals that were used to synthesize it. It may be diluted or "cut" with non-psychoactive substances like inositol or dimethylsulfone. Another popular method is to combine methamphetamine with other stimulant substances such as caffeine or Cathine into a pill known as a "Kamikaze", which is particularly dangerous due to the synergetic effects of multiple stimulants on the heart. It may also be flavored with high-sugar candies, drinks, or drink mixes to mask the bitter taste of the drug. Coloring may be added to the meth, as is the case with "Strawberry Quick."

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