Much in the same way that using methamphetamine dramatically changes (ruins) a person’s face, meth-cooking dealers are changing the way some Michigan neighborhoods look. Authorities are encouraging residents to be aware of the dangers that could be lurking in discarded soda bottles.
In the past eight years, Michigan’s annual meth-related busts have quadrupled. An uptick in pop-up meth labs commonly referred to as “one-pots” is being blamed for an increase in the amount of meth-related garbage littering less populated areas. More than that though, “one-pots” are giving meth makers the ability to undermine local laws designed to limit their access to the ingredients needed to produce the addictive drug.
When we think of meth labs, we tend to envision sprawling chemistry labs or Breaking Bad’s iconic RV that Jesse Pinkman nicknamed the “Krystal Ship.” According to Michigan police, though, one-pots can literally be a single soda bottle.
One-pot meth is typically made using a mixture of anhydrous ammonia (usually found in fertilizer), pseudoephedrine tablets (cold medicine), and a reactive metal like lithium (batteries). These three ingredients are shaken in a bottle to trigger a chemical reaction that makes a form of methamphetamine. The process is known colloquially as “shake and bake.”
Though the shake and bake method doesn’t produce nearly as much meth as a traditional setup might, it allows people to buy the necessary ingredients in small enough quantities so as not to alert police. There are some drawbacks though.
There’s no such thing as safe meth cooking. The majority of chemicals involved in the process are toxic and dangerous on their own, but when they’re mixed together they become highly combustible. This is particularly true of one-pot meth.
According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, one-pots can quickly become “giant fireballs” if the bottle is shaken improperly or if the cap is loose and the mixture inside is exposed to oxygen and moisture. Even if a one-pot rig doesn’t explode, exposure to the chemicals can be highly dangerous.
"We do cleanups throughout the area, and we've been alerted that there are meth labs along the river and in the woods," Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council executive director Gail Gruenwald told Detroit News. "People need to be alerted to the fact that if they're cleaning riverbanks, they have to be aware and careful about the leftovers or even the active processing of methamphetamine."