Feb 10, 2003: How do you make methamphetamines?

If one assesses the number of labs that have been discovered by metro police, it appears that this information is almost common knowledge.
Methamphetamines can be manufactured in illicit laboratories using over-the counter ingredients. The following is the list of ingredients listed on the Internet as required for the manufacture of methamphetamine:

  • Ephedrine (cold and allergy medicine)
  • Pseudoephedrine (cold and allergy medicine)
  • Alcohol (Rubbing/gasoline additive)
  • Toluene (brake cleaner)
  • Ether (engine starter)
  • Sulfuric Acid (drain cleaner)
  • Methanol (gasoline additive)
  • Lithium (camera batteries)
  • Trichloroethane (gun scrubber)
  • Anhydrous Ammonia (farm fertilizer)
  • Sodium Hydroxied (lye)
  • Red Phosphorous (matches)
  • Iodine (Veterinarian products)
  • Sodium metal (can be made from lye)
  • Table/Rock salt
  • Kerosene
  • Gasoline
  • Muriatic Acid
  • Campfire fuel
  • Paint thinner
  • Acetone

Red Phosphorous (flammable solid) and iodine are mixed. Crystals produce hydrogen iodine gas (corrosive) and phosphine gas (toxic), which is immediate health and safety hazards. When the process is complete, the reaction solution is then finished with lye and solvents.

The TN Dept of Health has questioned the health effects on children who are
    living in homes/trailers where methamphetamine is being manufactured. There is no data on which to base an answer. Due to the exposure to solvents, baseline liver and renal function should be evaluated. Whether long term CNS effects occur is unknown.

Pulmonary exposure is the main risk for first-responders at methamphetamine labs. (Due to the combination of combustible ingredients, these labs frequently explode.) The gases could cause irritative, caustic, and potential long-term effects.

As always, if there are any questions, call the MTPC.

I am interested in any questions that you would like answered in "Question of the Week." Please e-mail me with any suggestions at
donna. seer Vanderbilt.edu

Donna Seger, M.D.
Medical Director, Middle Tennessee Poison Center