Recognizing Clandestine Meth Labs

There are numerous types of illicit drugs that can be manufactured by persons outside of a chemistry lab. They include methamphetamine, LSD, fentanyl, GHB, aesthesia (MDMA), and other drugs. The manufacturing methods vary even among persons manufacturing the same exact drug. Methamphetamine is the most commonly manufactured illegal drug.

There are currently four common methods to manufacture methamphetamine.

The average person does have a chance of observing someone manufacturing methamphetamine. Methamphetamine labs can range from ones using highly specialized chemical apparatus to one where kitchen pots and pans, canning jars and other common household items are employed in the manufacturing process.

Because of the varied types of methamphetamine labs, an explanation of exactly what to look for could consume volumes of pages. The easiest way for someone to tell if what they have observed is an illicit drug lab is to look for the following indicators.


  • The mixing of unusual chemicals in a house, garage or barn by persons not involved in the chemical industry.
  • Late night secretive activity in a rural/farm area.
  • The possession of chemical glassware by someone not involved in the chemical field.
  • Possession of unusual chemicals, such as large quantities of MEK, Coleman Fuel7, Toluene, Acetone or cold/allergy medications.

What to do if You Discover a Lab

If you suspect that someone is illegally manufacturing drugs you should try to identify as many chemicals as possible, without placing yourself in danger, and call your local narcotics unit.

The narcotics units are part of your local police or sheriff's department or can be contacted through them.

Remember that a lab can be made to look like ordinary kitchen cooking items.

Source:  California Department of Justice