Methamphetamine is one of the most powerful drugs and is prone to addiction.
Yet, synthesizing it can take just a few hours and simple ingredients: striker plates from matchbooks, the guts of lithium batteries, drain cleaner. "If someone was truly interested in manufacturing meth, it would not be that hard", said Matt Leland, who works in career services at the University of Northern Colorado.
The Drug Enforcement Administration recently invited Leland and other citizens, like software engineers, a teacher, a pastor and a school principal, to prepare methamphetamine in a lab at Metropolitan State College of Denver. "You can find the recipe on the Internet. It just goes to show anybody who really wants to do it probably could." said Leland.
DEA offers through these classes a close-up view of its activity of keeping drugs off the street.
Meth is still a huge issue across the U.S., but the number of clandestine labs has diminished significantly as some of the ingredients are now much harder to achieve: pseudoephedrine tablets (like Sudafed) require now prescription and cannot be produced in massive amounts: in 2006, 102 labs were detected in Colorado, compared to 425 in 2002. "There are parties where cooks have free beer and drugs and people sit around tearing striker plates and removing tablets from their foil packs," said Paul Eyerly, a DEA chemist.
"Agents still need to stay on top of the problem, testing recipes they find on the Internet and learning the many ways the drugs can be made so they can testify against manufacturers in court. The crooks are always coming up with new technologies even though the chemistry stays the same," said Roger Ely, another DEA chemist.
"Methamphetamine is now largely a smuggling issue. Most of the product comes from Mexican cartels that manufacture the drugs in "superlabs" where cooks are capable of quickly making pound after pound," said Jeff Sweetin, the DEA's special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain region. "Mexican authorities are trying to stop the manufacturing of meth in their country by implementing the restrictions on ingredients that exist in the U.S.," he added.
DEA photographs presented some horrible images linked to meth consumption like one of a man who had cut out his own intestines while under the influence of meth and another of a man whose skin was peeling off due to burns achieved while preparing the drug.