Illegal drug abuse is a national problem, leading to addictions, overdoses and death for many people. Some of the drugs are manufactured in illicit and clandestine labs, and such labs also pose significant danger to everyone around. Many different types of drugs are made in these labs, including methamphetamine, synthetic drugs, cocaine, heroin, MDMA and LSD.
These clandestine labs pose significant risks to the people involved in making the drugs as well as to neighboring homes and businesses. Because of the dangers associated with drug manufacturing labs, local law enforcement as well as the federal government have been engaging in a crackdown on them for several years, leading to thousands of arrests and closures of labs. In some cases, buildings have exploded when police have raided them, causing injury to both the officers and those within the structures.
From Small Home-based Labs to Large Drug Manufacturing Facilities
Drug manufacturing labs can range in size from very small set-ups to giant operations in large facilities. Some labs, such as methamphetamine labs, can be very small and transported in a vehicle. Many people who operate these small labs do so because they’re making drugs to feed their own addictions. There are numerous stories in the news about the problems associated with small home-based meth labs causing such things as explosions and fires. These small labs are generally capable of producing between one and four ounces of meth during each production.
There are a number of large facilities as well, especially in Mexico and Central and South America. These large facilities are called super labs and often have state-of-the-art chemical equipment. With the difficulty of smuggling drugs into the United States, many of the drug cartels have expanded to the country, building and using super labs here. Such large operations have been discovered in California, and are capable of producing in excess of 10 pounds of methamphetamine in every production.
The Dangers of Operating Drug Labs
Those involved in operating a drug lab face multiple dangers. Most people who take part in illegal drug labs have little training in chemistry, instead learning from underground sources or from other users how to manufacture the drugs. Three main types of dangers are caused by manufacturing drugs, including physical harms, environmental hazards and child endangerment. People who cook the product risk being physically injured as the precursor chemicals may explode during the cooking process. They might also be injured due to a flash fire or a burn. Inhaling the toxic fumes produced by the process can also severely injure the respiratory system and lungs.
Hazards to the environment caused by drug labs include toxic waste that results from the manufacturing process. In many cases, drug lab operators bury the toxic waste, burn it, or dump it in rivers or alongside roads. People who come in contact with the waste may be injured due to the chemical exposure. It may also seep into the groundwater and contaminate the soil in which it’s buried, sometimes for years. Buildings in which drugs are manufactured may remain contaminated for a long time, risking the health and safety of subsequent occupants of the premises long after the lab is gone.
Many people who operate home labs also have children, and are thus endangering their children’s health and safety when making the drugs. Children are at high risk for being harmed by accidentally ingesting, absorbing or inhaling the toxic chemicals. Children who are present during a manufacturing process are also more likely to be abused, both by their parents as well as by others who come to the home to help manufacture the drugs. As a consequence, social service agencies often become involved after a home drug lab bust, removing the children and placing them in foster care.
Efforts to Eliminate Drug Labs
In an effort to reduce the ability of people to manufacture drugs, the government has moved to control the precursor chemicals needed to make them. In the 1990s, the Drug Enforcement Administration began monitoring sales of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, two chemicals contained in common cold medications used to make methamphetamine. The government has also signed agreements with other countries to try to limit precursor chemical access in those locales as well, such as a DEA effort in the Andean region to limit access to a chemical needed in processing cocaine from coca leaves.
Local and federal law enforcement agencies have also increasingly focused on shutting down labs in busts. One 2012 bust, called Operation Log Jam, was conducted on a national scale and resulted in raids and closures of synthetic drug labs, 90 arrests and the seizure of more than $36 million. Millions of packages of synthetic cannabinoids and other synthetic drugs were also seized in the raids, as well as a large number of weapons.
A prior crackdown on methamphetamine labs in the United States resulted in many labs relocating to Mexico. Meth labs are still a problem in the United States, however. They haven’t been completely driven out and many people still take the risks to manufacture methamphetamine in their cars or homes.
Get Help for Drug Addiction
People who are involved in operating drug labs are often addicted to the drug. If you’re operating a clandestine drug lab for the primary purpose of creating your own personal drug supply, get help and treatment before it’s too late. With appropriate treatment, you can become healthy again and overcome your addiction.
Drug addiction can be very powerful, leading people like you to take the risks associated with drug manufacturing too lightly. If you get help, you can eliminate the risks the activity is posing to you, your children, your neighbors and the environment around you. You may also be able to avoid potential criminal charges that occur if caught using or making drugs. To receive assistance, please call the hotline at 800-447-9081 and addiction specialists will be happy to get you the help you need.