Meth Labs Around the World
There are plenty of drug production facilities around the world. Afghanistan grows entire vast valleys of opium poppies, and the country’s borders are ringed with opium refining facilities. Colombia and Bolivia grow thousands of concealed patches of coca plants. Once the leaves are stripped off, they are then processed in crude jungle refining plants, winding up with crude coca paste which is shipped off to be refined into cocaine. In Mexico, Sinaloa is home to marijuana growing operations and the cartels that control them. Chemical labs in the Netherlands, Asia, and Canada produce Ecstasy that is distributed to party venues around the world.
But all these drug producing activities require long transport between the point of origin and the consumer. In the case of Afghan heroin, a shipment may cross ten or more country borders before the user finally receives his or her drugs. South American cocaine run up the Central American highways wreaks havoc on each country it passes through, as cartel members fight for control of transport routes.
Local Production of Meth
But what about methamphetamine? One of the distinguishing factors of this drug is that it is usually made close to the consumer marketplace. Precursor chemicals may do some traveling, particularly pseudoephedrine. Unscrupulous chemical dealers can get around laws controlling its movement by just relabeling containers and falsifying invoices. Aside from that, pseudoephedrine is a legitimate product that is frequently shipped across national borders.
The other chemicals needed to make methamphetamine are usually readily available in any country. Many of them are uncontrolled or only slightly restricted.
This means that methamphetamine shipments are not busted as often as most other kinds of drugs because there is much less shipping involved. It also means that what IS usually busted is the methamphetamine manufacturing facility, referred to as a meth lab. In some countries, the primary pattern is a rash of small labs, each composed of just a few people and a remote location where they can brew their drugs from cold medication plus household and farm chemicals.
Worldwide in 2008, there were 8,295 methamphetamine labs seized and dismantled.
Meth in Missouri
In America, the heaviest hit state, as far as meth labs go, is Missouri. While surrounding states may see 31 or 200 meth labs busted, Missouri consistently seizes or dismantles well over 1,000 labs per year. In 2004, just before the crackdown on the sale of pseudoephedrine-containing cold medication, it was more than 2,800 labs seized. In comparison, Kansas, right next door, saw only 600.
Restrictions on cold medication sales dropped the number to 1261 by 2007. Then a new, easier method of producing methamphetamine (less cold medication was needed per batch of meth) became known and the numbers began to climb again. By 2010, the count was up to 1,960.
Washington County alone in Missouri had 106 meth labs seized in 2010. That’s one lab for every seven square miles of the county. Meth labs are renowned for their toxicity and the expensive cleanup required to make the site habitable again. Some homes are so saturated with chemicals that no one can ever live there again without getting sick from meth exposure. Contaminated home sites must often have saturated sheetrock torn out and replaced. Even concrete in some cases can’t be thoroughly cleaned after chemicals have soaked into it. It must be torn out and replaced. Dump sites utilized by meth cooks can be just as hazardous, with containers and chemicals ready to explode if disturbed. To clean up a dump site, very often the top layer of soil must be completed removed and decontaminated.
Meth in Czech Republic and Europe
Among European countries, the highest prevalence of methamphetamine production is in the Czech Republic and the neighboring Slovak Republic. While pseudoephedrine-containing medications are controlled in these countries, they are not controlled in Poland, just across the border. Any meth cook in the Czech Republic has only to run across the border and come home with his cold medication to start his or her next batch.
Every year, more and more European countries report seizures of finished meth, nearly all of which originates in the Czech Republic. In 2001, eight European countries reported on 33 kg of meth that was seized. By 2008, thirteen countries had seized 160 kg of meth, illustrating the growth of production facilities that were being established in the Czech Republic. In 2008, there were 457 labs discovered in this one country. Germany, next door and with eight times as many people, had just 11 labs discovered. In terms of numbers of seizures and quantity of meth seized, Norway led the rest of the European Union.
East and Southeast Asia are well-known hotspots for methamphetamine production and consumption. Precursor chemicals are produced in large quantities in India, then making their way to the Golden Triangle of drug manufacturing, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. One news report stated that it was common for finished meth products (known in the area as “yaba”) to be smuggled out of Myanmar production facilities and into Bangladesh and other countries.
The United Nations reports that insurgent groups in the area seek to improve relations with the locals by no longer extorting their financing from them. Rather, they have switched to illicit drug manufacturing, including methamphetamine, to finance their battles.
The top countries identified as sources for methamphetamine seized in Asia are China (25 percent of seizures), the Philippines (24 percent), Thailand (16 percent) and Myanmar (14 percent). As an example of the scale of labs found in this region, Bulacan in the Philippines was the site of a meth lab that housed 300 liters of liquid methamphetamine when it was seized. It had enough equipment for eight simultaneous production cycles of methamphetamine.
Between 2004 and 2008, the number of people arrested in Thailand for meth-related crimes has increased four-fold to 120,000. More increases are expected.
Contact us if you know someone suffering from methamphetamine addiction or any other drug problem.