How can you tell if you’re dealing with someone who’s a meth abuser or a meth lab cook? Observe their behavior.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “In addition to being addicted to methamphetamine, chronic abusers exhibit symptoms that can include anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. They also can display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects creeping under the skin). Psychotic symptoms can sometimes last for months or years after methamphetamine abuse has ceased, and stress has been shown to precipitate spontaneous recurrence of methamphetamine psychosis in formerly psychotic methamphetamine abusers.”
1. Frequent visitors at all times of the day or night, followed by periods where there are no visitors.
Meth users can stay awake for several days and nights without sleep. During those “awake times”, buyers will frequently visit the meth dealer’s home. Cash poor buyers often bring stolen goods to the meth dealer’s home to barter for methamphetamine. Electronic items and tools are popular replacements for cash. Meth cooks will often “signal” buyers when they have meth to sell by doing something like leaving a porch light on or creating some other visible sign outside of their house.
2. Visitors park far away from the meth lab house, even though there is parking available in front of the home.
Buyers don’t want neighbors or other people that they know to see their car parked in front of a drug dealer’s home and meth dealers don’t want alot of vehicles showing up at their house. Some meth buyers drive stolen cars, but that’s not true of all buyers. If the car has been stolen, the door lock may be punched out. Stolen cars may be dirty, but they will have clean license plates.
3. Activity at the house is usually at odd hours or late at night.
Meth cooks usually cook meth in the early morning hours when most people are sleeping. Meth lab cooks that use motel and hotel rooms to cook meth often cook meth somewhere between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Meth’s effect on users allow them to stay awake all day and all night for several days in a row, if they keep using more meth. Lack of sleep causes hallucinations and extreme paranoia.
3. Occupants appear unemployed, yet seem to have plenty of money and pay bills with cash.
Meth dealers get paid in cash and often with stolen property. Because of the laws limiting the sale of pseudoephedrine, meth dealers will also accept packages of pseudoephedrine as payment for meth.
4. Occupants are unfriendly, appear secretive about activities.
The last thing that a meth cook wants is a friendly neighbor stopping by and asking questions about anything they see or smell, or about them, for that matter.
5. Occupants watch cars suspiciously when they pass by.
Heavy meth users and meth cooks are always worried that someone is coming to get them and they want to be ready to a) make a quick escape or b) grab a weapon.
6. Occupants display a paranoid or odd behavior.
Heavy meth users who go without food and sleep for several days in a row are prone to hallucinations and paranoia.
7. Extensive security at the home.
“Private Property” or “Beware of Dog” signs may be posted as well as fences, large shrubs, bushes and trees. Security cameras may also be attached to the house, shed, barn, garage, etc. Anyone making and selling meth wants to know who is getting “too close” to finding out about their illegal activity.
8. Windows blackened or curtains always drawn.
Besides preventing anyone from seeing any signs of meth lab through their windows, they also prevent anyone from seeing the mess inside of their homes.
9. Occupants go outside the house to smoke cigarettes.
Meth lab cooks are smart enough to know that lighting a cigarette near the volatile chemicals inside their home or shed would be disasterous.
10. Chemical odors coming from the house, garbage or detached buildings.
11. Garbage contains numerous bottles, containers.
12. Coffee filters, bed sheets or other material stained from filtering red phosphorus or other chemicals
13. Occupant sets his garbage for pick up in another neighbor’s collection area.
14. Evidence of chemical or waste dumping (i.e. burn pits, or “dead spots” in the yard)
15. Meth users are extremely active. Methamphetamine gives the user alot of energy, making them very talkative and energetic. When they’re high on meth, they may be involved in several kinds of projects but seldom finish any of them.
For example, they may pull apart vehicles and other machinery with the intention of fixing them, but never complete the repairs.
Some meth lab homes have been found with graffiti painted on walls and ceilings. Meth gives them so much energy that they have to do “something”.
16. If the meth user / dealer/ lab cook has children or pets, they are typically neglected and in danger. Chemicals in meth lab homes are often left where children can reach them and drink them. Meth lab homes are full of toxic chemicals that are extremely dangerous to the health of children, whose immune systems are still developing.
During the times that the meth using parents crash by sleeping for days at a time, children and animals are often left to fend for themselves. During those times, many children don’t go to school. Older children often stay home from school to take care of their younger siblings, while their adult caretakers sleep.
Food may be scarce in a heavy meth user’s home, due to money being spent on drugs before food for their children and their pets. Meth users may also forget that children and pets need to be fed, as meth takes away their urge to eat.
Children may not be allowed to go outside without a parent or other adult present.
Originally published on March 13, 2009.