What Does Meth Smell Like?

Authored by Pin Ng

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Philippa Gold

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Is my kid using meth?


One of the most addictive and easy to get drugs currently is methamphetamine aka meth. The drug has become popular in parts of the world due to its ease to make and the large amounts of money it can be sold for. The television show Breaking Bad even glorified meth making and selling. This has led to many kids trying the drug out of curiosity.


If you are worried that your child is using meth, you may need evidence of their usage before confronting them. One way to identify whether or not someone is using meth is by the drug’s smell. Meth can be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected, leaving a distinct odor. Using this odor, you may be able to identify if your child is using the deadly drug.


What does meth smell like?


Most of the time, meth is odorless and it is believed untraceable by the human nose. However, methamphetamines may give off a faint aroma. The smell of meth is similar to nail polish remover containing acetone, rotten eggs, cat urine, or burnt plastic. This is due to the chemicals that are used to cook meth. Methamphetamine vapors are extremely harmful to a person. The vapors can cause illness, death, and/or injury to anyone who is exposed to them.


After a house has been identified as a cook house, it must be cleaned up of the hazardous waste that was left behind. In some cases, the property must be demolished to prevent others from being harmed by the vapors that seeped into the building’s furniture, fittings, and walls.


What ingredients are used to cook meth?


A variety of harmful ingredients are used to cook meth. These ingredients can be purchased from local stores and are oftentimes cheap to obtain. The ingredients used to cook a batch of meth alter the way in which the drug smells.


Typical ingredients used to make meth include:


  • Ammonia
  • Lithium
  • Acetone
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Red phosphorus


Once these items are cooked into the meth drug that is consumed by users, it may smell like:


  • Hospitals cleaning products
  • Burning/burnt plastic
  • Roses
  • Sweets or a sweet smell


You may not be able to distinguish these smells from others or need further evidence of your child’s use of meth before confronting them about it. If your child has been in or around a meth lab, they may have some even strong odors in their clothing, hair, or on the skin.


Meth labs typically smell strongly of ammonia and cleaning chemicals as these are popular ingredients for the drug. Smells such as rotten eggs or a natural gas leak may also be present. This is due to the toxic fumes and odors released by the ingredients during drug production.


Typical smells of a meth lab include:


  • Lighter/starter fluid
  • Ether
  • Ammonia
  • Auto parts cleaner
  • Rotten eggs
  • Natural gas


Why is it important to identify the smell of meth?


First and foremost, the vapors given off during meth production are extremely dangerous to the health of anyone nearby. If you believe there is a meth lab nearby due to the odors in the air, it is vital that you contact local authorities. Meth vapors do not just harm those people cooking it or using the drug. The vapors can harm the lives of anyone who comes in contact with them.


Being exposed to the toxic chemicals used in a meth lab can cause health problems. The ingredients used to cook meth are extremely corrosive and can burn a person’s skin, nose, throat, and eyes.


If a person inhales toxic meth fumes, it may cause health problems such as:


  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


To clean up a former meth lab, law enforcement must wear gas masks and hazmat suits. This shows just how dangerous the cooking, production, and using of the drug is.


Getting help for meth addiction


If your kid is on meth, you can get them the help needed from a residential treatment facility. A residential rehab center treats a person’s meth substance use disorder using detox to manage withdrawal symptoms1Galbraith, Niall. “The Methamphetamine Problem: Commentary on … Psychiatric Morbidity and Socio-occupational Dysfunction in Residents of a Drug Rehabilitation Centre†.” PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706185. Accessed 11 Oct. 2022.. After detox is complete, an individual will graduate to the treatment program where their meth addiction will be treated. Co-occurring disorders may be treated as well during this time.


The good news is neither you nor your child has to live with meth addiction. There is help out there. If you believe your kid is on meth, then contact a residential rehab center today to find help.

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  • 1
    Galbraith, Niall. “The Methamphetamine Problem: Commentary on … Psychiatric Morbidity and Socio-occupational Dysfunction in Residents of a Drug Rehabilitation Centre†.” PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706185. Accessed 11 Oct. 2022.
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