Welcome back to Part Two of our interview with Dr. Smith, a former meth user and an expert in the field of Molecular Biology. In our last blog, we shared her responses to our interview questions on psychosis and hallucinations induced by meth. This week, we’re eager to continue with Dr. Smith’s insights into this prevalent and dangerous substance.
The Psychosis of Meth: Interview with Dr. Smith, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology
“As a professional in the scientific community, what are your concerns about residual meth?”
Dr. Smith, October 6th, 2020:
“Obviously, I was never worried about it on the walls when I was doing it. Of course, if you’re willing to do that to your own body, then you’re probably not understanding the effects. That or you’re in denial.”
“When I got my degree and understood chemistry, I began to realize long-term toxicity. Basically, meth is a highly unstable molecule, meaning it changes the state easily. That makes it dangerous in many ways. And that’s if you know what’s in it, which you don’t – not really. Meth is specifically volatile, so it goes from gas to liquid easily, and that phase change is important for processing it. That’s also why it’s so explosive.”
“It comes out as a sheet and then breaks apart. If they don’t cook it well, it can be goopy and gross. I think you’d have to understand that chemistry and have done drugs to understand exactly how disgusting and scary that is. Because it changes state so easily, it stays in materials – off-gassing, which means it can release into the environment. You can also absorb it on contact. Actually, when I started using my friends told me not to touch kids. It stays on your clothes, everything.”
“And when a molecule like this isn’t exposed to light and other natural mechanisms that help it decay, like inside of a house, it can last for a really long time. So you can breathe it in, absorb it by touching materials, and ingest it for years and years. How much meth is done on property matters in that equation, obviously. But I will say that I knew meth had been cooked in a house; you couldn’t pay me to live there without decontamination.”
Residual Meth: Psychosis Hidden in the Walls
“Is it possible to experience psychosis just from exposure to a former meth lab?”
“You know, I haven’t read any material on that, and there are a lot of factors to consider. We have to think about what materials and formulas were used, how much they produced, and how saturated the property is. Furthermore, I think it would depend on what you mean by exposure. Living in that environment is different than other kinds of contact. And then there are questions about kids and dosages, etc. Also, not everyone that does meth experiences psychosis, and the differential diagnostics are tricky.”
“That being said, my friends that cooked it would be higher than kites, even in bunny suits and with respirators. That’s the level of toxicity we’re dealing with. Think of it this way, what it does to teeth – it does to a house. It rots away bone. What do you think it’s doing to your walls? Or your organs? And any amount of heat, humidity, or temperature – just what we know from chemistry – invites more of these state changes.”
“Your house isn’t set up to deal with that. My work, in a proper lab, is set up with air handling and filters, and protocols. Your house isn’t. And the cooking process has deteriorated over the years – so so toxic. You hear about it less in houses, but it hasn’t gotten better; it’s just more mobile. That makes this problem worse. It’s worrisome.”
“Besides, in a meth lab, there are bound to be other things – poisonous compounds sticking around besides meth. So, personally, I think getting sick is more likely than psychosis. But that doesn’t exclude the possibility, and it’s totally possible you could hallucinate or experience those types of symptoms from exposure. Either way, it isn’t good.”
Meth Residue: A Common Problem in Utah’s Homes
“How realistic is it to say that one meth user can contaminate thousands of homes?”
“I can’t say for sure, obviously, without looking at more specific data. But, logically, it’s not totally out there. The stuff is odorless, mostly. I mean, different cooks have different signatures. If you know what it smells like, it comes with urges – but most people never realize it was smoked right under their noses. And it’s super easy.”
“Seriously, we smoked in all of my friend’s houses. And I didn’t use meth for very long. Maybe six months, consistently. In that time frame, I smoked in a high school, in my boyfriend’s house, my parent’s house, all of my boyfriend’s friend’s houses. So, I would say I did not smoke less than in 50 houses in the Salt Lake Valley.”
“And we would go to really nice houses, very affluent areas—people who had recently become rich and were now drug addicts, that sort of thing. We would go hang out in their nice houses, way up on the mountain, really nice expensive homes – people would have no idea what we would do. Twenty of us up there doing meth with people who were easily thirty years old… And I didn’t smoke a bunch of meth, so people who have been doing this for decades …. You know, do the math.”
“By the way, they cook at hotels, too all the time And never got caught. Houses, schools, businesses, all over. It’s a much bigger issue than people think.”
To Be Continued
Thank you to Dr. Smith for this amazing interview. We’re grateful for the opportunity to spread awareness about meth and methamphetamine residue, and for you trusting us with your personal stories.
Next time, we will discuss the science behind the psychosis of meth. For now, we hope it is apparent that meth is a mind-altering and dangerous substance. And, while much less potent in its residual form, it (as well as the chemicals used in its creation) can still make you ill. That is why we strongly urge you to test for meth any time you buy or sell a home or other property. And yes, in some cases, that may even include vehicles. Call a Certified Decontamination Specialist in your area to learn more about testing and decontamination. Of course, if you’re in Utah, then feel free to call us. We’re Utah’s meth and mold decontamination masters. (801) 888-6698.
*For the privacy of the interviewee and her friends and family, an alias was used in this article