Meth Isn't Meth Anymore

P2P meth is a whole different ballgame
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2021 1:21 PM CDT
Updated Oct 24, 2021 6:30 AM CDT
What You Know as Meth Is Tame Compared to 'New' Meth
This photo provided on Jan. 26, 2021, shows meth pills seized from a pill processing mill in the Bronx, NY, on June 19, 2020.   (DEA/NYC Office of SNP via AP)

Meth isn't meth anymore. That's the upshot of an excerpt of Sam Quinones' new book in the Atlantic. It hasn't been for quite some time. As Quinones details, the way we commonly think of methamphetamine being made—using ephedrine, the active ingredient in Sudafed—started giving way roughly 15 years ago to a different method. Meth can also be made using a clear liquid called phenyl-2-propanone, or P2P. The upside for drug traffickers is that there's a long list of chemicals that can be combined to make P2P ("cyanide, lye, mercury, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitrostyrene"), a range so wide and so used in other industries that regulating them like authorities did with ephedrine sales is essentially impossible. But there had long been one problem with this approach.

The P2P method spits out two types of meth: d-methamphetamine, which gets you high, and l-methamphetamine, which make your heart beat like crazy but produces a weak high at best. "Separating the two is tricky, beyond the skills of most clandestine chemists," writes Quinones—who recounts a DEA chemist's 2006 discovery that a seized sample he was evaluating was, shockingly, largely d-methamphetamine. From there, the P2P version has become dominant. What this looks like: In 2011 Mexican authorities found a P2P meth lab whose ingredients were stacked 30 feet high and could have been turned into 900 metric tons of meth. There's no way that much ephedrine could ever have been amassed. Sixteen workers were arrested; within six months, only two of them hadn't died from liver failure, a fact that Quinones uses as a springboard. "Ephedrine meth tended to damage people gradually, over years," he writes. But P2P meth "seems to create a higher order of ... catastrophe." (Read his full story here, which gets into the mental illness and homelessness P2P meth has unleashed.)

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