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Breaking Bad Gets It Right: Meth Production in the Midwest

In the popular AMC show Breaking Bad, high school chemistry teacher Walter White is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, then resorts to using his knowledge of the periodic table and his chemistry expertise uses meth production as a means of funding his medical treatments and to take care of his oblivious family. Set and filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad gave audiences worldwide a firsthand account of both the production and sale of methamphetamine as well as an idea of the effects both upon its use and on the community.

Even though Walter White and his sidekick Jesse Pinkman are fictional, you might say that the show gives an accurate portrayal not only of the process of meth production and distribution but of the American Midwest being an area with a very high concentration of methamphetamine. Breaking Bad brought a lot of focus onto those enigmatic individuals who use, produce, and distribute dangerous drugs in our communities, especially those in the Midwest. And although Breaking Bad was created and aired for the purposes of entertainment, there’s not much that’s comedic about the current methamphetamine problem in the Midwest and elsewhere in the country today. However, before we can discuss the current problem, we must first understand methamphetamine itself.

Crystal Meth Production

If you’ve seen the show Breaking Bad, then you’ll already know that making crystal meth is an incredibly complicated process. It requires an individual to essentially be an amateur chemist, mixing a variety of chemicals that can be found either at a neighborhood drug store or in your supply closet at home among your cleaning solvents and other supplies and taking only a couple of hours from start to finish. However, there’s even a new “shake-and-bake” method that takes about 15 minutes to product a quick batch of meth and is becoming increasingly popular despite the very high risk of individuals setting themselves on fire with this method. What’s more, the individual components or ingredients required to cook methamphetamine are relatively inexpensive. When producing crystal meth, many of the compounds mixed during the process have to be combined in just the right order to avoid one of many dangerous or violent outcomes, which can include putting off noxious, poisonous gases or causes explosions that have severely injured and even killed people.

Due to the need of meth “cooks” to have plenty of privacies and a certain amount of space for their jury-rigged labs, the production of methamphetamine is almost exclusive to rural and suburban communities. While it’s possible to produce meth in a confined space, the chemicals that are mixed during the production of crystal meth put off some very caustic fumes that are difficult to hide unless in an unpopulated, rural area. This has led to the majority of meth production being in the midwest “farm belt,” consisting of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, and Indiana. In fact, until very recently is was almost unheard of for a lab to be discovered in an urban area. Unlike drugs like heroin and cocaine that are imported into major cities and trickle down to smaller and smaller communities, methamphetamine tends to originate in rural communities before spreading to more suburban and urban communities.

The Effects of Crystal Meth

Methamphetamine—which typically takes the form of glass looking shards that appear to be clear-white or white-blue in color—is a highly addictive and powerful stimulant that acts on the body’s central nervous system, commonly used recreationally by users who enjoy the tendency of crystal meth to increase energy and sexual desire, elevate the mood, and the resultant euphoria. However, the most well-known effects are considered to be the spike in energy and alertness as well as the marked increase in libido. Users often go on “binges” for days or even weeks at a time in which they will continually use crystal meth without sleeping before finally crashing. In terms of the sexual effects, methamphetamine users experience an increase in their libido, but it simultaneously has an inhibitory effect on males’ ejaculation, which has recently made it a popular party drug in some communities of gay men.

There are a number of side effects that individuals risk with use of crystal meth. The immediate side effects can include loss of appetite, severe insomnia, excessive sweating, dilated pupils, irregular heartbeat or palpitations, grinding of teeth, rapid breathing, increase in blood pressure, marked increase in body temperature, headache, blurred vision, numbness, twitching, dizziness, and others. Individuals who use meth long-term and/or excessively risk heart attack, stroke, and death.

The Methamphetamine Epidemic in the Midwest

One might wonder why the midwest has such a high concentration of methamphetamine—or how we would even know that to be possible—when first thinking about it, but when you begin to consider the ideal conditions for meth production, which consist of rural areas and sparsely populated communities, it becomes clear that the abundance of rural and suburban communities in the midwest (“small town America”) have made for the perfect storm.

In fact, as early as 2004 officials in Missouri were raiding an average of eight makeshift methamphetamine labs every single day. It’s by comparing the number of meth labs and incidents resulting meth production—such as injury and explosion—that we’re able to identify the areas that have the highest concentration of meth production and abuse. According to statistics, the midwest consistently has some of the highest rates of methamphetamine labs that are discovered by law enforcement officials. With the meth epidemic ravaging communities in the midwest and elsewhere, many states are taking measures to curb the high levels of meth production by making pseudoephedrine, which is a key ingredient in crystal meth, available only with a prescription.

Crystal meth is a very dangerous and highly addictive drug. If you or a loved one is addicted to methamphetamine or any other substance, please call Drug Treatment Center Finder today. Our recovery specialists are trained to help those in need find the recovery program that best their individual needs.