Meth Identification By Look And Smell

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on May 1, 2020

Methamphetamine (meth) comes in many forms, each which may have a different look and smell. Identifying meth may be important to those who are abusing drugs, or loved ones of addicted individuals, as meth is a highly addictive, dangerous drug of abuse and meth labs can be highly hazardous.

How Long Does Meth Last?

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II stimulant, which means that it does have medical use but is very addictive. Legally, it is prescribed as Desoxyn. The prescription treats obesity and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and can’t be refilled.

Illicit meth is cooked in labs, often with inexpensive ingredients that can be easily found in drugstores or big box stores. These include nail polish remover, fertilizer, lithium, battery acid, and pseudoephedrine.

Meth labs can be very potent and dangerous. Active ingredients used to make meth interact in ways that can cause explosions and harm to anyone who may stumble upon the lab. For this reason, it’s important to be able to identify meth by look, smell, and other factors.

How To Identify Methamphetamine (Meth)

Meth identification can be difficult, as the drug can resemble anything from bits of transparent quartz or other harmless minerals to rock candy or rock salt to talcum powder to the glaze placed on a donut.

Law enforcement professionals use drug kits to check to see whether a substance is methamphetamine. They can either test a suspected user’s blood or urine to find the drug or test for the drug itself by mixing it with a reagent. A blue color means that one of the amines that goes into creating meth has been found.

What Meth Looks Like

When it comes to what meth looks like, regular methamphetamine hydrochloride comes in powder form. The powder can be fine or coarse, but if it is pure, it is white.

Sometimes meth is cut with other substances, which can make it pink, yellow, green, or blue. Meth also comes in pill or tablet form. Meth is soluble in alcohol or water.

Crystal meth looks like small wands of crystal or glass shards. It also comes as small, shiny blue rocks. Despite what people saw on the TV show “Breaking Bad,” the blue color doesn’t mean that the methamphetamine is pure. Pure meth is colorless.

What Meth Smells Like

If it is pure, what meth smells like is nothing (odorless), but it has a bitter taste. It can be mixed with other substances that give it an unpleasant smell that recalls rotten eggs, cat urine, burning plastic, ammonia, or acetone. Sometimes these odors are so strong in a meth lab that they are hazardous to health.

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However, the free base form of methamphetamine is a clear, colorless, sticky oil that smells like geraniums or roses. Free base means that the methamphetamine has been freed from its hydrochloride salt base.

Recognizing Different Types Of Meth

Meth in its powdered form can be easily snorted or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected. The color of powdered methamphetamine depends on how it is cooked.

If it is cooked with gun scrubber, the drug can turn green. Some dealers color their product with vegetable dye for meth identification. The dye lets customers know that this particular batch of meth came from a certain dealer.

Crystal meth is more powerful than powdered meth. It’s made by dissolving powdered meth in acetone or methylated spirits and letting the solution evaporate. What’s left are crystals that cling to the edge of the container. These crystals are usually colorless but can have a blue tint. Crystal meth is smoked or can be dissolved and injected.

Another type of meth is yaba, which are very small tablets. They’re made mostly of caffeine, with about 30 percent meth added. The tablets are orange or green and stamped, usually with WY or R. This identifies yaba as a club drug. People can simply swallow yaba, melt it down and inhale the fumes, crush it and snort it, or dissolve it and inject it.

Liquid meth is thick and dark yellow and usually bought in regular liquor bottles, but it is uncommon to find this type of meth sold on the street. Dealers most often boil it back down into a powder before it’s used.

Identifying Meth By Street Names

Like many illicit drugs, meth has a long list of street names which can help identify it. These names often describe what the drug looks like, its stimulating effects on the mind and body, or its low cost.

Among them are:

  • Glass
  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Black Beauties
  • Chicken Feed
  • Chalk
  • Shabu
  • Shards
  • Speed
  • Stove Top
  • Tina
  • Poor Man’s Cocaine
  • Hiropon
  • Ventana
  • Ice
  • Methlies
  • Bikers Coffee
  • Batu
  • Tweak
  • Trash
  • Uppers
  • Vidrio

What Does Meth Paraphernalia Look Like?

Like most illicit drugs, meth has its own paraphernalia that enables it to be cooked, sold, and used. First, meth is created in labs. These aren’t the labs a person would see in a hospital or a legitimate business.

Meth labs can be in a house, a mobile home, or even a vehicle. A person coming close to it will usually smell strong and unpleasant odors. Because the people who make the drug are exposed to these odors, they will keep windows open in all weather and fill the house with fans to pull the noxious air outside.

The area around the lab will have burned spots where waste products were dumped, and the trash cans outside the house may be full of strange items. Because making meth is illegal, the building may have an unusual number of cameras and monitors, “Keep Out” signs, and guard dogs.

Meth paraphernalia includes glass pipes. They are long with round ends. Other paraphernalia are creased tin foil that’s used to evaporate the meth so it can be inhaled. Some users pierce soda cans with holes so they can inhale the meth vapors through them.

Pens emptied of their ink reservoirs and cut straws are used to inhale the meth, and needles and syringes are used to inject it. If the drug is being snorted, the user will often employ small, plastic sandwich bags.

Finding Treatment For Meth Abuse And Addiction

Though a lot of attention is being paid to opioids in 2020, methamphetamine abuse continues to be a problem and has even gotten worse in some areas of the country.

Fortunately, most drug rehab centers that treat patients addicted to opioids also treat patients addicted to methamphetamine. Get in touch with one of our treatment specialists to learn more about help for meth abuse and addiction.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on May 1, 2020

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