10 Years of Meth Lab Explosions
10 Years of Meth Lab Explosions

You’ve probably heard about the dangers of methamphetamine – an addictive stimulant drug used by 569,000 people in the U.S. in 2014. Meth ravages the bodies of the people who use it, and long-term use can lead to a host of health issues: confusion, anxiety, insomnia, mood problems, violent behavior, and even psychosis.

But there are some disturbing facts you may not know about the drug: Most of the meth in the U.S. is illegally manufactured in secret laboratories all over the country. “Cooks,” who are often untrained, produce the drug using hazardous chemicals that can cause toxic fumes, fires, and explosions.

In 2014, there were 9,338 meth incidents in the U.S., including laboratories, dumpsites, and seizures of chemicals and glassware. Using data from the United States Drug Enforcement Association (DEA), we examined trends and tracked the locations of these clandestine meth labs across the country. How frequently have these incidents occurred in the past decade? Which states have the most meth labs? And just how close to your home is the nearest lab? Keep reading for this eye-opening look at the world of illicit drug manufacturing.

do you live near a meth lab?

Enter a street address, city, or state in the interactive meth incident locator to see if any discovered laboratories located in your area. In these illicit operations, meth “cooks” produce the drug by isolating ingredients from cold medicine and combining them with a variety of hazardous substances, including drain cleaner, battery acid, and antifreeze.

Along with presenting immediate health dangers, the effects of meth labs can linger – potentially harming visitors, neighbors, and future occupants of a home. To learn more about the effects of meth, visit DrugAbuse.com/crystal-meth-abuse.

10 Years of Meth Labs, Dumpsites, and Seizures

10 Years of Meth Lab Explosions

As you can see from the above GIF, the prevalence of meth lab incidents has changed dramatically over the past decade. The number of incidents during a given time can be traced to both the drug’s popularity and the law, according to a CDC report documenting meth-related chemical incidents. Between 2001 and 2004, the drug’s popularity increased – and a glance at the 2004 map reveals just how prevalent meth incidents were. The drug also began steadily migrating east.

In light of growing concerns surrounding meth production, in 2005 over 35 states passed legislation to restrict sales of pseudoephedrine (the active cold medicine ingredient required to produce meth). People who wanted to buy the drug encountered obstacles: purchase limits, the need to request the drug from behind the counter, or even the requirement to sign a registry. As you can see, over the next two years, meth incidents decreased, particularly in states affected by the legislation.

Despite these efforts, 2008 saw an uptick in meth incidents, as drug makers found ways to skirt the law and the “shake and bake” method (a simple way to make the drug using a plastic bottle) gained popularity. In 2009, after Mexico banned the import of pseudoephedrine, traffickers turned to California for production. Some people estimated that during this time, California produced more meth than the five next-largest meth-producing states put together.

Since 2009, lobbyists have attempted to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug, but the pharmaceutical industry has thwarted these efforts. Today, the scourge of meth continues. Creative meth “cooks” have produced the drug in everything from dog houses to fast food restaurants to vehicles.

Mapping meth incidents

The heat map above demonstrates how dramatically meth incidents have pervaded the Midwest, South, and West Coast. Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan have all been hit particularly hard. Because meth is relatively easy to make, small towns in the Heartland are quite vulnerable – especially in communities where struggling economies have led to limited law enforcement presence.

Meth labs can negatively impact property values and can also dramatically affect your health. How can you tell if there is a meth lab in your area? Here are a few clues: numerous people coming and going, trash cans overflowing with plastic bottles and tubes, distinctive odors (sometimes described as rotten eggs or animal urine), and the sound of explosions. If you suspect someone near you is operating a meth lab, steer clear of the area and contact law enforcement immediately.

METH incidents across the united states

Meth Incidents Across the U.S.

It’s alarming to see the prevalence of meth labs in the United States, especially when considering the harmful effects of the drug on individuals, families and communities.

From our study of meth lab explosions across the United States, it’s clear that meth labs are prevalent. A lab’s negative impact on a neighborhood extends far beyond the dangers of an explosion. Meth takes hold abruptly and causes destruction to those who use the drug and to the families of those addicted. If someone you know struggles with meth addiction, explore our site, DrugAbuse.com, to learn more about recovery resources in your area.


We pulled the latest addresses from the past 10 years from the DEA’s National Clandestine Laboratory Register and mapped them for our interactive maps and graphics.


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