Recognizing a Meth House / Structure


A house or other structure containing a meth lab will display “telltale signs” of meth production. Some of these signs concern the appearance of the structure itself, while others concern the behavior of the occupants. It is important to learn to recognize these "telltale signs" and know what to do if you see them.

    From The Outside

    Unusual Odors: Making meth produces powerful odors that may smell like ammonia or ether. These odors have been compared to the smell of cat urine or rotten eggs.

      Covered Windows: Meth makers often blacken or cover windows to prevent outsiders from seeing in.

        Strange Ventilation: Meth makers often employ unusual ventilation practices to rid themselves of toxic fumes produced by the meth-making process. They may open windows on cold days or at other seemingly inappropriate times, and they may set up fans, furnace blowers, and other unusual ventilation systems.

          Elaborate Security: Meth makers often set up elaborate security measures, including, for example, "Keep Out" signs, guard dogs, video cameras, or baby monitors placed outside to warn of persons approaching the premises.

            Dead Vegetation: Meth makers sometimes dump toxic substances in their yards, leaving burn pits, "dead spots" in the grass or vegetation, or other evidence of chemical dumping.

              Excessive or Unusual Trash: Meth makers produce large quantities of unusual waste that may contain, for example:

                • packaging from cold tablets
                • lithium batteries that have been torn apart
                • used coffee filters with colored stains or powdery residue
                • empty containers – often with puncture holes – of antifreeze, white gas, ether, starting fluids, Freon, lye, drain opener, paint thinner, acetone, alcohol, or other chemicals
                • plastic soda bottles with holes near the top, often with tubes coming out of the holes
                • plastic or rubber hoses, duct tape, rubber gloves, or respiratory masks.

                  From The Inside

                  Appearance and Cleanliness of the Structure: Houses and other structures hosting meth labs vary enormously in their appearance. It may be immediately apparent that meth is being manufactured and used in the structure. A structure hosting a meth lab may be unkempt, unsanitary, and full of chemical odors. On the other hand, the structure may also appear very normal and orderly. The appearance of the structure depends on the care that the meth manufacturer takes to hide his or her unlawful activities.

                    Presence of Meth Ingredients: The best indicators of meth production are the presence of the ingredients used to make the drug. Homes containing a meth lab may have either (1) a large amount of a single meth ingredient, such as Sudafed, or, alternatively (2) a significant number of ingredients and supplies used to make meth. Here are some typical meth-making ingredients and supplies:

                      • cold medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
                      • lithium batteries
                      • ether and/or camping fuels
                      • anhydrous ammonia
                      • hydrogen peroxide
                      • Red Devil lye
                      • sulfuric, muriatic, and/or hydrochloric acid
                      • coffee filters
                      • funnels and turkey basters
                      • improvised glassware 

                        While many of these ingredients and equipment are common, the amounts and the form of the ingredients needed to manufacture meth are different than what the average person would possess. For example, multiple boxes of cold medicine, or cold medication removed from blister packs, may indicate the presence of a meth lab. The same is true for coffee filters covered with strange stains or powders.

                          Presence of Equipment or Apparatus Used to Meth: In addition, there may be strange types of equipment or apparatus in the house used to manufacture meth. For example, soft drink bottles with hoses attached or cans of camping fuel with holes punched through the sides or bottom indicate the presence of a meth lab.

                            Behavior Of Occupants

                            Paranoid Behavior: Meth makers tend to act in a manner that is extremely paranoid and secretive. For example, they may monitor passing cars, show great suspicion toward strangers, and – as noted above – construct elaborate security systems around their homes.

                              Staying Inside: Residents of houses containing meth labs may remain inside their homes for extended periods of time. Many meth addicts and meth makers are not only paranoid and secretive, but also unemployed.

                                Smoking Outside: By the same token, residents of houses and other structures containing meth labs often go outside to smoke. They do this to avoid igniting a fire or explosion when matches, lighters, or cigarettes come into contact with the highly combustible chemicals and fumes found in a meth lab.

                                  Frequent Visitors: Although residents of a house or other structure containing a meth lab may stay in or near their homes, they often receive a large number of visitors, especially at night. These visitors may be bringing supplies, taking away meth, using meth, hanging out, or any combination of these activities.

                                    Mobile Garage: To avoid detection of their illegal activities, meth makers may burn their trash, place it in the trash collection area of another house or building, or cart it away and dump it elsewhere.

                                      What To Do If You Come Across A Meth House

                                      Stay Calm - Keep your distance and never take matters into your own hands.

                                        Protect Yourself – Leave immediately or do not approach the structure or confront its occupants. Both meth labs and meth users are extremely dangerous and unpredictable.

                                          Protect Others – Alert any innocent bystanders who may be in imminent danger, such as children playing in the front yard of a home you believe may contain a meth lab.

                                            Alert Law Enforcement– Alert local law enforcement authorities without delay.

                                              Page Last Updated:12/12/2012