Methamphetamine, also known as chalk, ice, P, meth and crystal meth among many other terms, it takes the form of a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.
It is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system.
Methamphetamine was developed early in the 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria. However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine in that, at comparable doses, much greater amounts of the drug get into the brain, making it a more potent stimulant. It also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with high potential for widespread abuse.
How is methamphetamine manufactured?
Most of the methamphetamine abused in this country is manufactured in small clandestine laboratories, with relatively inexpensive ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications. The availability of pseudoephedrine is now tightly controlled in New Zealand, and customs are fighting a constant battle to stop it being illegally imported.
Unfortunately, manufacturers are also increasingly using a different production process (called P2P, from the precursor chemical phenyl-2-propanone) that does not require pseudoephedrine.
Methamphetamine production also involves a number of other easily obtained chemicals that are hazardous, such as acetone, anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), ether, red phosphorus, and lithium.
Toxicity from these chemicals can remain in the environment around a methamphetamine production lab long after the lab has been shut down, causing a wide range of damaging effects to health. Because of these dangers, the Ministry of Health has provided guidance on cleanup and remediation of methamphetamine labs.
How is methamphetamine different from other drugs?
The methamphetamine molecule is structurally similar to amphetamine and to the neurotransmitter dopamine, a brain chemical that plays an important role in the regulation of reward, but it is quite different from cocaine. Although these stimulants have similar behavioural and physiological effects, there are some major differences in the basic mechanisms of how they work.
In contrast to cocaine, which is quickly removed from and almost completely metabolized in the body, methamphetamine has a much longer duration of action, and a larger percentage of the drug remains unchanged in the body. Methamphetamine therefore remains in the brain longer, which ultimately leads to prolonged stimulant effects. Although both methamphetamine and cocaine increase levels of dopamine, administration of methamphetamine in animal studies leads to much higher levels of dopamine, because nerve cells respond differently to the two drugs. Cocaine prolongs dopamine actions in the brain by blocking the re-absorption (re-uptake) of the neurotransmitter by signalling nerve cells. At low doses, methamphetamine also blocks the re-uptake of dopamine, but it also increases the release of dopamine, leading to much higher concentrations in the synapse (the gap between neurons), which can be toxic to nerve terminals.
What are the effects of methamphetamine contamination?
Methamphetamine use and manufacture can adversely affect people and animals for many years to come who have the misfortune of being in a place where it was made or used. Investigations have found meth contamination in motels rooms over three years after there was known use or manufacture. Both smoking and manufacture destroy property and may make people sick for years to come that inhabit, or use, the property. People who live in houses where meth was smoked or manufactured may have enough in their systems to test positive for it with a UA or hair testing. Furnishings and other possessions may become contaminated to the point of needing to be discarded to protect inhabitant’s health. People who smoke, or manufacture meth, may leave behind an invisible booby trap that can harm anonymous people for years to into the future.
Methamphetamine is a crystal that vaporizes when heated, as in smoking. The vapour clings to surfaces and reforms into crystals. People who come in contact with these surfaces can ingest the meth through their skin or by touching contaminated surfaces then touching mouth, nose or eyes. Babies are especially vulnerable. They live in a world where they crawl on all fours and everything is sampled by tasting. It takes only small amounts of meth to affect a baby.
There seems to be little or no research on the affects of 2nd and 3rd hand meth on people or pets, but it's safe to assume that small, chronic doses of the drug would cause the same reactions as the users experience but on a smaller scale. Some symptoms of living with meth contamination have been reported by people who believe they are living with meth pollution. I hear many reports of sickness or speed intoxication from these people. In most cases they can't prove that meth is the problem, but they believe they live in sick homes cause by meth use or manufacture.
There are many possible sources of sick house syndrome where people and pets living or working in a building are sickened as a result of contact with the building. Meth and mould are the most commonly blamed sources for sick house, but there is no way to really know without proper environmental and medical testing.
People who are exposed to meth pollution report speediness, loss of appetite, spaciness, inability to concentrate, itchy skin, dry eyes, irritability, paranoia, colds, breathing difficulty, sinus problems, headaches, nervousness, anxiety, acne and confusion. In more extreme cases; convulsions and death of pets. I have heard repeatedly: my kids are always sick and are not doing well in school, I'm always sick and our dog died.
If your property has been used as a meth lab then the precursors can also cause major health problems.
The ONLY way to know for certain if a property or vehicle is safe is the test it. If the presumptive test is not negative for methamphetamine then the subsequent test should also include a test for the precursors indicative of methamphetamine manufacture.
What kind of testing do you do?
We have access to many ways to test for methamphetamine and precursor contamination. Which option we use will be in consultation with our clients based on their specific needs.
MMC Presumptive Testing This is an instant result test to indicate the presence of methamphetamine at concentrations above the standard of 1.5 micrograms per 100cm2.
Used according the manufacturer's guidelines, this test is very accurate. It is cost effective and the method used mostly for pre-purchase, between tenancies, and vehicle testing.
Used incorrectly, it is inaccurate and cannot be relied upon. We have had some experience with tests done incorrectly causing unnecessary angst and upset. Subsequent testing has given different results.
Normally a minimum of one sample per room is taken. However, a larger property may require more samples to get an accurate reading from the property.
We provide a PDF report that includes much more information that just the bare results. For properties that fail this test we recommend further testing.
Evidential Swab Test This test takes about three days to get a result. Again, the way the samples are taken is key to getting accurate results.
This test is much more sensitive and can give a result from as little as 0.02 micrograms per 100cm2. It gives the exact level of methamphetamine and any precusors present in the sample.
We use an IANZ accredited laboratory to analyse these samples and give you a comprehensive report along with the lab results.
Laboratory Composite Test In this testing method, we taken individual samples (up to six per room) and then have the laboratory combine the results. This gives an accurate average of the results for a single room or property.
The lab retains the original samples and we can get individual results for each sample if required.
Composite Testing This is when a single swab is used to sample multiple sites in a property. We do not use this method as it is of very limited value.
DrugWipeA Test This is a highly sensitive test that can detect cannabis, amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine and opiates (heroin/morphine) at concentrations of 0.08 micrograms for 100cm2. It gives an immediate result. This test is the same as used by Australian Customs and can be useful for determining the presence of these drugs in minute quantities.
VOC Gases Volatile Organic Compounds can also be tested for. This is usually done after remediation to show if the property is now safe to occupy.
Soil and Water Testing Soil and plumbing can both be affected with methamphetamine and precursors. If a property tests positive as a clan lab site then it may be necessary to do this type of testing.
How long does it take to book a job?
Normally we can attend to a job within two days. If urgent, it may be possible to book on the same day.
How long does it take to get results?
Written report within 24 hours for MMC testing, and three days for Evidential Swab Tests and Laboratory Composite Tests.
Drug Safe NZ was started in 2013 in response to a request from property managers looking for someone reliable and cost effective to test rental properties between tenancies.
This has expanded to include pre-purchase tests on real estate, hotel rooms, motel rooms, camping grounds, fleet and rental vehicles and even recovered stolen vehicles.
The business has expanded almost completely through word-of-mouth referrals from happy clients. More recently there has been a need to expand via a franchise system. Linda and John are passionate about maintaining the highest possible standards of testing by everyone in the industry. Especially their own technicians.
John and Linda Reid founded the business relying on John's science background and Linda's systems and accounting expertise. This has proven to be a powerful combination.
John is a retired veterinarian and his existing relationships with IANZ laboratories and his experience taking samples and understanding scientific method has proven to be invaluable. He is also great at going up ladders, into roof spaces and under floors!
Linda is in charge of the systems, accounting and customer service parts of the business. email Linda.
Hilary Lunn holds the franchise for Northland. Her farming and business background has proven to be invaluable, and her integrity and hard work mean she is very successful and easy to work with.