What a Meth Lab is Not

It is time that someone questions the use of the phrase “meth lab”. Just as a cook would object to the phrase “meth kitchen”,  those of us who spend our careers in the laboratory should push back on the use of the word “lab” in this manner.  The use of this word confers the notion that a workspace is fitted for chemical handling activity and is operated by someone who knows what they are doing. Dubbing a meth operation as laboratory surrenders too much credit to the operator. These people are moonshiners skulking around on the periphery of society.

A meth lab is not a lab. It is the workshop of a criminal enterprise where unscrupulous people manufacture a dangerous substance. Its sole purpose is to profit from the uncontrollable neurological train wreck of methamphetamine addiction. This is not laboratory work. It’s just crime.

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About gaussling

Gaussling is a senior scientist in the chemical business. He occasionally breaks glassware and has been known to generate new forms of hazmats. Gaussling also digs aerospace, geology, and community theatre. View all posts by gaussling

3 responses to “What a Meth Lab is Not

  • gale

    Oh, but my dear Gaussling, sometimes a meth lab really is a lab. That is if it is a high volume production facility run by former Los Alamos chemists. Please tell me you’ve watched “Breaking Bad.” The show is nearly as addictive as the drug itself, the acting is superb, and the chemistry is usually spot on. There are chemist’s discussion forums that pore over each episode to debate whether the use of thermite, for example, or fulminate of mercury, for another, was accurate.

    • gaussling

      I do understand your point. But I also understand that most meth “labs” are in homes and other locations that are not suitable for chemical use. Some fraction of people who make methamphetamine or other synthetic materials may be chemists by education or practice. They are also criminals and have bastardized the very language used to describe a moderately noble profession. I mean to reserve the word “lab” as a workshop for research and analysis.

      I had a chemist convict call me repeatedly from a pay phone in prison to recruit me in his defense for appeal on his conviction for producing methamphetamine in his industrial lab. I refused to offer expert opinion when it became apparent that he was relying on some handwaving argument that he could not possibly have made phenylacetone in the manner asserted by the prosecution, and thus could not have made meth. He was lying- his method afforded low yield, not zero yield. A weasel doing chemical synthesis is still a weasel.

  • gale

    Furthermore, there are “legitimate” pharmaceutical labs or even government research labs that could be said to do the same thing in terms of the production of something solely for profit that creates a neurological train wreck. In no way am I suggesting that mass production of, say, zoloft, is on the same scale as that of meth, but it too is highly addictive and is thought to completely mess up the brain’s ability to produce its own well balance mixture of dopamine, etc. Once you’re on it, you’re on it for life, apparently. And MDs prescribe it with little thought or knowlege of the long term consequences.

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