Methamphetamine is an addictive drug made in home labs. When taken by mouth, snorted, injected or smoked, it produces intense pleasure by releasing excessive amounts of the brain’s reward chemical – dopamine. The euphoria that it produces is longer lasting than even cocaine, and meth users are reluctant to give up this highly addictive central-nervous-system stimulant.
As one addict explains, “Sex became an endurance sport I couldn’t get enough of — I felt great so much of the time I couldn’t even think of a downside.” If perfect euphoria is the ultimate self-indulgence, then meth can be labeled Chemical Masturbation.
It’s not enough that meth addicts lose brain cells but keep living happily ever after; it’s the wake they leave behind if they have been ‘cooking’ their own product.
We have property legislation regarding mold, and disclosure covering asbestos and radon, but only voluntary warnings concerning exposure to contaminants left behind after a meth lab has been dismantled. Home labs are vanishing, but not the meth! Some states like Oklahoma are voluntarily labeling ex-meth lab addresses, but for most unsuspecting home buyers this still holds a “buyer beware” sticker.
Property owners are warned to exercise caution and use the safest possible cleaning practices in dealing with a former meth lab residence as there is no guarantee that it is one hundred percent free of remaining contamination. Owners of apartments, mobile homes, sheds, garages, vehicles and even hotel/motels are at risk. Tenants move in, set up their lab because it doesn’t take any chemistry expertise to manufacture their own meth. Of the 32 chemicals that can be used in varying recipes, one-third is extremely toxic.
When they move on or the lab is closed by authorities, it takes a special team in moon suits and breathing equipment to cart off the chemicals and equipment. Even with these measures, there is no guarantee that the location will ever be fit to re-inhabit.
The owner is left with contamination of absorbent materials such as carpeting, drapes and ductwork which can accumulate vapors that are dispersed though the air during the cooking process. Further, are the waste products generated during meth manufacture. Some of these products are thrown along the sides of roads in or in neighboring back yards – but most are dumped down sinks, drains, and toilets. They contaminate sewer systems and are leached into streams and rivers.
The innocent victims of a meth lab are two: parents who are alcoholics or addicted to other drugs may keep their lives glued together for decades, but ice addicts rarely can. The “ice” children suffer neglect as well as undeserved beatings from parental addicts that are out of control. They play on carpets where meth residue is prevalent. Their bedding, clothing and the very air they breath is contaminated with meth; far more dangerous than second hand cigarette smoke.
The second innocent victim is the unsuspecting home buyer or renter who tries to live in an ex-meth lab home. It may begin with a burning in the respiratory tract, eyes, ears, or nose. Next comes severe burning of the hands and feet accompanied by nausea and sleeplessness. As a renter the answer is simple but the new home buyer is stuck with their mistake. If you want to live, your only choice is to hang the key and suffer the credit damage of a repo.
Even burning these buildings to the ground will not save the land on which the lab was operating. Ground contamination is still unmeasured, and it will take years to determine percentages that are supposedly “acceptable” to human occupation. What began in 1973 by mid-western bikers and truckers to stay awake on long journies, has now spread north to Oregon and east to Atlanta (now referred to as Meth City).
Looking back, one can study a nuclear contamination map and see areas that cannot be inhabited for years. It looks like spotty blemishes such as Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. A meth contamination map looks like measles. It’s becoming obvious that we cannot incarcerate our way out of this meth problem. Legislators in Washington, meanwhile, don’t seem very concerned. They prefer lining up to denounce the use of steroids in Major League Baseball.