In November, 2013 in Pinellas County, Florida, residents were shocked when investigators busted a meth lab in their upscale condominium. While meth has long been considered a blue collar drug cooked up in the rural Midwest, it is spreading. To say the use of methamphetamine has reached epidemic levels in the United States may be an understatement. It’s estimated that nearly 10 million people in the United States have at least tried meth. Meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected. The following information describes the dangerous aspects of meth labs, including negative consequences to the property, as well as the people involved.
Dangers to Humans
The chemicals used in meth include pseudoephedrine, acetone, and phosphine. The short-term effects of using meth often include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, and nausea. Chronic use of meth can also destroy blood vessels, which not only leads to stroke and heart attacks, but limits the body’s ability to repair tissues. This often accelerates the aging process and can be seen in devastating before and after pictures of individuals addicted to meth. Emotional and mental symptoms may include panic, paranoia, and sometimes violent behavior. Long-term effects may involve damage to nearly every major organ in the body. Those who recover still may suffer from memory problems and mood swings.
Health dangers to humans who have unknowingly lived in a meth house have included respiratory issues, migraines, and skin problems. While the long-term effects are not completely known, there may be a link between exposure to meth and certain types of cancer. The dangers to children are even more pronounced since their bodies are smaller and still developing. According to the University of Michigan, approximately 5 percent of high school seniors in the U.S. have tried meth at least one time.
Dangers to Property
Cooking meth inside any type of building completely contaminates the structure from top to bottom. The furniture, the carpet, and the curtains all become toxic. Even the air itself becomes dangerous to breathe. Besides long-term damage to property and homes, there is the potential for immediate and even more serious problems. Explosions and fires can occur when meth is being cooked. There are several signs that indicate a meth lab may be in use. Strong odors such as ammonia in the area is a sign of a meth lab. Buildings with the windows blacked out may also indicate that a meth lab is inside. Other indications include an excessive amount of glass cookware or glass containers with powdery residue, and coffee filters with a white pasty substance inside. According to the DEA website, which keeps records of all meth incidents in the United States, more labs, dumpsites, and meth equipment have been located in the Midwest than any other region of the country.
Cleaning up a Former Meth Lab
Even though over 80 percent of meth in the United States comes from what are called “super labs” in California and Mexico, home cooked meth is still a problem throughout the US. When police or other professionals enter a meth lab, they must arm themselves with clothing and gear that looks like it came out of a science fiction movie. They wear goggles, respirators, special suits, gloves, and shoe coverings. The drug itself is usually the least toxic to a home environment. The chemicals that are used to make the drug pose the most risk. There are no national standards for cleaning meth labs and regulations vary from state to state. The steps to cleaning a meth house generally include airing out the building, sanitizing all surfaces, cleaning out vents and plumbing, and then repainting and carpeting the home. This is costly and time consuming, and still may not rid the home of all the toxins.
Most of the cooks in meth labs are addicted themselves. Since they are likely under the influence of the drug while preparing it, they not only face the usual health consequences but have an increased risk of getting burned. Anyone who has become addicted to meth should seek out treatment as soon as possible. Inpatient treatment provides many physical, as well as emotional, benefits. Withdrawal can be a brutal process. Being monitored by a trained medical staff is beneficial in case any life threatening side effects occur. Exploring and dealing with the root causes of addiction is just as important as physical recovery. Inpatient treatment services will provide therapy and counseling to help individuals deal with the emotional aspects of addiction.