Methamphetamine: DEA Fast Facts

barre vt meth lab

DEA FAST FACTS ABOUT METH: Meth is made in America as well as internationally.Unlike heroin, cocaine, or Ecstasy, it is produced here within our borders. We can’t blame other countries for this problem.

Meth is not just a big city problem

Meth has become the most dangerous drug problem of small-town America. Traffickers make and distribute the drug in some of our country’s most rural areas. Twelve to fourteen year olds that live in smaller towns are 104% more likely to use meth than those who live in larger cities.

“Tabletop” labs on the increase

One of the reasons meth is such a threat in rural America is because it is cheap and easy to make. Drugs that can be bought over the counter at local stores are mixed with other common ingredients to make meth. Small labs to cook the drug can be set up on tables in kitchens, countertops, garages or just about anywhere. Although superlabs, operated by sophisticated traffickers still supply the majority of meth, these smaller tabletop labs have increased exponentially in the last decade, setting an alarming trend.

Meth hurts not just individuals, but families, neighborhoods and entire communities.

Meth is a powerfully addictive and violent drug. Its use can result in fatal kidney and lung disorders, brain damage, liver damage, chronic depression, paranoia and other physical and mental disorders. Recent studies have demonstrated that meth causes more damage to the brain than alcohol, heroin, or cocaine.

Environmental harm

The chemicals used to make meth are toxic, and the lab operators routinely dump waste into streams, rivers, fields, and sewage systems. The chemical vapors produced during cooking permeate the walls and carpets of houses and buildings, making them uninhabitable. Cleaning up these sites requires specialized training and costs an average of $2,000-$4,000 per site in funds that come out of the already-strained budgets of state and local police.


Hundreds of children are neglected every year after living with parents who are meth “cooks.” More than 20% of the meth labs seized last year had children present.

So how do we reclaim our towns? We have a three-fold approach:

Enforcement: Dismantle meth trafficking organizations and both the superlabs that are trafficking the drugs across state and national borders and the tabletop labs that produce local supplies. At the federal level, the DEA goes after the major traffickers. At the local level, the DEA trains local and state law enforcement agents in spotting and safely seizing smaller operations. The DEA also assists with clean-up costs of these labs.

Community Engagement and Prevention: Prevention drug use is the first step to avoiding drug abuse. Schools, churches, businesses and, most importantly, families need to be aware of the danger that meth poses. Parents should not take it for granted that their children understand the risks associated with a drug like methamphetamine because too many kids don’t. Businesses can also get involved through drug-testing programs. Retail outlets can also help by controlling the volume of precursor chemicals any one individual can buy over the counter. This will help block local dealers from setting up tabletop labs.

Follow-up: Methamphetamine has a phenomenal rate of addiction, with some experts saying users can get hooked after just one use. It’s not enough to just put the traffickers of drugs in jail, we need to help those who suffer addiction to heal. Only by breaking that cycle of demand can we bring lasting change to the entire community. We must look to treatment and alternative sentencing procedures, like drug courts and restorative justice, for non-violent users.

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