Clandestine meth labs spell trouble, pose extreme danger, says RCMP

Nancy MacPhee
Published on January 25, 2016

The items used for what Cpl. Andy Cook, head of the Prince District JFO Drug Unit, called a “backpack meth lab.” These are not the items that were seized in Thursday’s search of a Summerside home.

©TC MEDIA/Nancy MacPhee

Meth ingredients include drain cleaner, lithium batteries, cold and sinus medication, campfire fuel

Together, the household items form a recipe for potential disaster, producing an illegal substance that gives an instant high and can be lethal.

Cpl. Andy Cook, head of the Prince District JFO Drug Unit, places the items on a table in an interview room at the East Prince RCMP detachment.

They aren’t those seized during the search last week of a Summerside home, where a meth lab was dismantled. These are what Cook uses to teach officers what to look for when it comes to uncovering a small-scale meth operation.

There are things like drain cleaner containing sulfuric acid, plastic water bottles, lithium batteries, a coffee grinder, cold and sinus medication, campfire fuel, and over-the-counter cold compresses.

Together, they are used to make methamphetamine. And the drug’s recipe, said Cook, can be easily found online with a quick search and a few clicks of a mouse.

“It is all over the Internet, known as the one-pot method,” said Cook.

He detailed the steps.

The methods used to produce the drug are dangerous, with dry ingredients ground and mixed, with ammonium nitrate, lye, a solvent and lithium added.

“The lithium itself is flammable when it comes in contact with water and it can burn your skin,” said Cook.

Dry and wet ingredients are combined in a two-litre plastic bottle, causing a chemical reaction, with the contents spinning around like a tornado in a bottle.

“This builds up pressure in here from the ammonium gas that is produced. This expands. This is not built as a pressure vessel so often what they are seeing with these backpack meth labs or one-pot meth labs is they rupture,” said Cook, a plastic soda bottle in hand. “That gets spewed out into an uncontrolled environment and you end up with fire, sometimes explosion.”

“It is almost like a flame thrower... It sprays out and it is on fire.”

The items used in “backpack meth labs” can be easily packed up and moved.

The drug only takes hours to make.

What is eventually produced is the result of a mixture of toxic chemicals most people would never willingly ingest.

“It is certainly nothing that you would want to put in your body,” said Cook.