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Meth recipes available on the Internet

HAMILTON - Although the Internet can be an information source on the dangers of drug use, it also has a darker side where methamphetamine recipes lurk on more than 30 different Web sites.

"That's part of the reason we are seeing such an explosion in these labs," said Mark Long, state Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation narcotics chief.

Before 1996, producing the highly addictive narcotic was a dangerous process that required setting up a complex laboratory that used highly flammable chemicals to concoct the final product.

Since then, meth manufacturers have developed various production techniques, including a cold-cook process. The ingredients are still extremely dangerous, but the no-heat process allows producers to take their operations on the road.

In 1999, almost all of the meth labs busted in Montana were portable laboratories, small enough to fit inside a box about twice the size of a shoebox and easy enough to set up in a motel room or in the back seat of a car, Long said.

The drug's portability now makes it more difficult to track.

It also allows drug manufacturers to leave behind a toxic mess in storage units and motel rooms and even on farm fields.

One common ingredient in manufacturing meth, a chemical found in fertilizer called anhydrous ammonia, often is stored in large tanks on farms. Meth makers sometimes are known to steal the product in the middle of the night and briefly set up shop near the tank.

"They'll go out to the field and do cooking right there, leave all their crud behind and take off with the finished product," Long said.

Other common ingredients used in the meth manufacturing process are phosphorous and various metals.

Phosphorous is so explosive that static electricity can cause it to burst into flames, Long said. Some metals also are highly flammable when moisture comes in contact with them.

"They are so flammable that they are shipped in oil," Long said.

Imagine what happens when someone discards them in a back yard, and then it rains, he said.

"We discovered several labs last year because they blew up and burned houses down."

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