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Is a "Meth" Lab Coming to Your School?

Tim McClure

It’s inevitable that someday, somewhere, a meth lab will be found in a school. Sooner or later some enterprising chemistry student will put his book learning to practical use.

What’s to stop him? The manufacturing process involves little more than following a cake recipe and the ingredients needed to make the drug can be bought at the local hardware store, so meth labs may be located virtually anywhere.

Bathrooms and kitchens of a home are good places for cooking meth because they have ventilation systems to siphon off the chemical odors produced by the process. High school labs have ventilation systems too and, while meth cookers use Ball jars and hot plates, beakers and Bunsen burners will work just fine.

A few years ago the Indiana State Police arrested a chemist at Eli Lilly and Co., the pharmaceutical giant, on methamphetamine charges. The investigation revealed that he had been making the drug at work. State police lab reports indicated that this rogue chemist’s meth was 100 percent pure, proving that a fully furnished and functioning lab is an excellent place to “cook.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported that more than 15,000 illicit meth labs were seized in the United States last year. Across the country meth labs have been found next to and across the street from schools and day care centers.

The meth cooker probably uses the drug and perhaps sells his product to sustain his habit. He is likely to be addicted to the drug and either badly in need of a fix or already high when he is cooking up a batch. His desperation and/or impairment greatly increase the likelihood that something will go wrong during the process. And when things go wrong, they may go really wrong.

One in six meth labs catches fire. And even if the cooker manages not to blow himself up, whatever is left over from a cook creates a hazardous waste site. Emergency rooms across the country have treated scores of children who have ingested meth and the chemicals used in its manufacture.

As a school official you need to keep in mind that meth is a monster that can rear its ugly head anytime, anywhere. Keep an eye out in and near your school for indicators that a lab is nearby. Meth makers use cold pills, drain cleaner, starting fluid, coffee filters and anhydrous ammonia that it often put in propane tanks in the cooking process. They also use lithium batteries, salt, aluminum foil and a heat source.

Meth makers and users are almost always paranoid. The drug and the nature of their business make them that way. They may post “no trespassing” signs, completely cover their windows and behave in suspicious and bizarre ways. They probably won’t even set out their trash.

These people can be very dangerous. Earlier this year meth users kidnapped and killed a Southern Indiana girl because she saw them using the drug and were afraid she’d report them.

If you suspect you have a lab in or near your school, report your suspicions to your school resource officer or police department immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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