Where Does Meth Come From?

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Methamphetamines were discovered in the late 19th century and have been used medically and recreationally since then, with illicit use rising to crisis levels in the 2000s.

The substance affects the brain’s pleasure centers, producing a surge of euphoria that makes it highly addictive and extremely difficult to break dependence.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with a dependence on meth or any other substance, Guardian Recovery can help. We will work with you to develop an individualized and effective program to help you recover from addiction and get you on the road to long-term recovery. We believe in the benefits of a full curriculum of clinical care, beginning with medical detoxification, transitioning into a higher level of treatment, and concluding with personalized aftercare planning. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options in your area.

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The Historical Use of Amphetamines

Though it was first synthesized in a lab in 1887, the medical use of amphetamines, the precursor to methamphetamine, wasn’t discovered until about 1930.

Initially used as a nasal decongestant and bronchodilator (medication that helps to open the lungs and make breathing easier), it was also found to have stimulant properties. This discovery led to its medical use in treating narcolepsy and depression. However, with rising abuse of the drug leading to addiction, it became tightly regulated in most countries by the mid-20th century.

Despite this, amphetamine derivatives remain popular on the illicit market due to their powerful effects and are now widely available as one of today’s most abused substances: methamphetamines. There are numerous sources from which meth can be obtained illegally, including dealers on the streets, online stores that ship worldwide, and laboratories operated by drug cartels. The prevalence of meth and its devastating effects have been a significant issue in many countries for decades now, leading to increased efforts to tackle its production and distribution.

The Discovery & Development of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine was first synthesized in 1893 and later re-discovered in 1919 during the synthesis of ephedrine when scientists further explored its potential as a stimulant. It has also been prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

During World War II, both amphetamines and methamphetamines were handed out to soldiers to improve alertness and stamina while in battle. Following the war, meth gained popularity due to its effects indicated for weight loss and increased energy levels. This led to its widespread use and abuse, leading to increasingly stringent laws around its production and sale. Now classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, methamphetamine remains one of the world’s most popular drugs with devastating consequences for those who abuse it.

The Ingredients & Chemical Process of Making Methamphetamine

The ingredients used to make methamphetamine are highly toxic, and the chemical process involves the dangerous mixing and boiling of these substances. The primary foundation chemicals required for making meth include pseudoephedrine or phenyl-2-propanone (P2P), which can be extracted from over-the-counter cold medicines or other legal sources.

Other chemicals needed to produce meth include iodine, red phosphorus, anhydrous ammonia, lithium metal, sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, and acetone. These substances are mixed in a container and then heated until volatile gases form a liquid solution known as ‘meth oil,’ which can then be filtered and purified to create the final product. This process is highly flammable and explosive, making it extremely dangerous.

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The Role of Cartels & Illegal Labs in Methamphetamine Production

Most methamphetamine is produced in illegal laboratories run by drug cartels or criminal gangs. Cartels can produce large quantities of meth quickly and cheaply due to their access to precursor chemicals and expertise in illegally obtaining the necessary ingredients for production.

These clandestine labs often operate in rural locations, such as barns and forests, where they are hard to detect by law enforcement authorities, making them difficult to shut down. As a result, the illicit production of methamphetamine has become an increasingly profitable business for these organized crime groups, who have established lucrative distribution networks across international borders.

Geographic Distribution of Meth Production & Trafficking

Methamphetamine production and trafficking is a global issue, with operations taking place in countries worldwide. Central America is one of the biggest regions for meth production and trafficking, with Mexican cartels leading the way in output.

Meth production is also common in Southeast Asia, particularly in China, where it is smuggled into other countries via sea routes. In Europe and North America, methamphetamine produced overseas is smuggled in by criminal networks that specialize in drug trafficking. Overall, there are no geographical boundaries when it comes to meth production and trafficking, as criminals have found ways to operate across borders despite law enforcement efforts.

The Role of Organized Crime in the Meth Trade

Organized crime networks are heavily involved in the methamphetamine trade, as they have the resources and expertise necessary to smuggle large quantities of drugs across international borders. These criminal networks often work with corrupt public officials to facilitate the trafficking of meth. Sometimes, these groups will even bribe law enforcement officers to ensure their operations remain undetected.

Organized crime groups are also responsible for laundering money from drug sales into legitimate financial systems, making it difficult for authorities to track down illicit profits. The involvement of organized crime in the meth trade has been a significant contributing factor to its spread worldwide. It has made tackling this issue a top priority for government agencies around the globe.

Efforts to Combat Methamphetamine Production & Use

Governments and law enforcement agencies around the world are taking steps to combat methamphetamine production and trafficking. This includes initiatives such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Program Against Money Laundering, which aims to disrupt financial flows linked to drug crime. Countries also collaborate through international forums, such as the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, to share best practices in tackling this issue.

On a local level, governments are introducing legislation and resources to prevent people from becoming involved in meth-related activities and providing support for those affected by its use. While these efforts may not provide an immediate solution, they demonstrate governments’ commitment to tackling this global problem.

Domestic and International Methamphetamine Regulations

Domestic and international methamphetamine regulations have been implemented to deter the production and trafficking of the drug. At a domestic level, governments are introducing measures such as regulating precursor chemicals used to produce meth, increasing penalties for related offenses, and providing access to treatment services for those affected by its use.

On an international scale, countries are signing treaties such as the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which oblige signatories to share information on traffickers and take steps to disrupt criminal networks involved in the trade.

Methamphetamine production and trafficking have had devastating consequences worldwide, both in terms of its direct impact on individuals and broader social and economic costs. The short-term effects of using meth include impaired judgment, aggression, paranoia, hallucinations, and physical harm. Long-term use can lead to serious mental health problems such as psychosis and addiction, which can have life-long impacts on users.

Communities affected by drug crime experience higher rates of violence, poverty, and public health issues due to their proximity to illicit activities carried out by traffickers. Globally, organized crime networks are profiting from the methamphetamine trade, while governments face enormous challenges in tackling the spread of this drug. Methamphetamine production and trafficking have far-reaching consequences for individuals, communities, and societies worldwide.

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The medical use and recreational abuse of methamphetamines date back to its discovery in the early 20th century. Methamphetamine is highly addictive and can potentially cause severe dependence and negative impacts on your health. Its powerful stimulant and euphoric effects make it easy to become dependent and almost impossible to kick on your own. No matter the substance, the best way to overcome addiction is with the help of experienced, trusted professionals like those at Guardian Recovery. We provide comprehensive treatment, including medically-assisted detox, therapy, specialty programs, and reintegration support. Our caring and skilled administrative, medical, and clinical teams will guide you through every step of your recovery process from the first time you call. We provide a complimentary assessment and a free insurance benefits check and help coordinate local travel to our facility. All you have to do is ask; we will take care of the rest. Contact us today.


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  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26070751/
  2. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
  3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/overview
  4. https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-meth
  5. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
  6. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine
  7. https://2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2016/vol2/253363.htm
  8. https://www.justice.gov/archive/olp/methawareness/
  9. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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