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Updated on January 27, 2023
4 min read

What Does Meth Smell Like?

What Does Meth Smell Like?

Meth often has no odor. However, sometimes it has a faint chemical scent. Usually, the smell of meth comes from the chemical ingredients used to produce the stimulant drug.

Some say meth has a subtle and sweet smell. It sometimes smells like vinegar or ammonia, similar to cleaning products.

What Does a Meth Lab Smell Like?

Because of the materials used to make meth, a meth lab can smell like powerful chemicals. Some people may also describe the odor from meth production as rotten.

When it is being made, the meth lab smell may resemble the following:

  • "Hospital smell"
  • Acetone nail polish remover, vinegar, or ammonia
  • Paint or paint thinner
  • Cat urine
  • Rotten eggs
  • Burning plastic

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Why Does Meth Smell?

Making meth involves using many hazardous chemicals, which produce a powerful odor. These chemicals include:

  • Acetone
  • Anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer)
  • Lithium
  • Red phosphorus
  • Ether

Meth is made by extracting ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from cold or diet medicines. They add ammonia and lithium; a solvent is then added to extract the meth. 

Acidic gas goes through the meth and creates crystals. The series of chemical reactions throughout the process makes a strong odor.

What are the Dangers of Meth Labs Exposure?

Meth labs often emit chemical odors, and exposure to these substances can cause health problems and injury. 

Inhaling toxic fumes coming from a meth lab can cause the following:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory problems

The ingredients used to make meth are highly corrosive. They may cause severe burns on the mucous membranes of the eyes, throat, and nose. They can burn the skin, too.

How are Children Affected by Meth Lab Exposure?

When exposed to a meth lab, children are susceptible to developing health problems related to meth manufacturing. They are at high risk for:

  • Breathing problems
  • Poisoning
  • Burns 
  • Damage to the brain, heart, kidney, and liver
  • Weakened immune system 

A weakened immune system may also trigger certain conditions. These conditions may include certain cancers like lymphoma and leukemia.

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How to Tell if Someone is on Meth

People who use meth display certain behaviors and physical symptoms. These include:

  • Extreme alertness and bursts of energy
  • Constantly talking
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss (sickly appearance)
  • Mood swings and outbursts
  • Paranoia and erratic behavior
  • Dilated pupils and rapid eye movements
  • Rapid breathing
  • Erratic sleep schedule
  • Tooth or gum decay
  • Open sores or scars from scratching
  • Foul body odor
  • Pale or blotchy skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Grinding teeth

Tweaking and Crashing

Tweaking is the term used for the end of crystal meth high. It occurs when the user can't achieve the rush, high, or euphoria anymore. It usually happens because they run out of drugs.

They are left with intense cravings and despair.

Signs of tweaking include:

  • High levels of frustration and paranoia
  • Intense cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling imaginary bugs crawling on the skin
  • Disconnection from reality or disassociation
  • Inability to sleep
  • Self-harm

Crashing is the first stage of meth withdrawal. It usually happens 1 to 3 days after the last use and involves loss of energy and cognitive function.

Often, people sleep for one to three days during their crash. This can lead to the following:

  • High-intensity cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness

What is Meth (Methamphetamine)?

Meth is short for methamphetamine, a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The street version of meth is highly addictive, dangerous, and illegal.

The legal version of meth, Desoxyn, can be prescribed for

  • Weight loss
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Narcolepsy

It boosts the amount of dopamine in the body, which affects the rewards and motivation part of the brain. This increase in dopamine levels can influence drug-taking behavior, making people want to use the drug repeatedly.

How is Meth Taken?

People can take meth in various ways. These methods include:

  • Smoking
  • Swallowing (in pill form)
  • Snorting
  • Injecting powder dissolved in water or alcohol

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Treatment for Meth Abuse and Addiction

There are several ways to treat meth drug abuse and addiction. If you or a loved one is experiencing meth substance abuse or addiction, seek professional medical help.

While medications can help treat some substance use disorders, there are currently no medicines that counteract the unique effects of methamphetamine. There are also no medications that prolong abstinence and reduce meth use in those addicted to the drug.

Treatment options for meth abuse and addiction include:


Methamphetamines are a powerful and highly addictive drug that affects the central nervous system. It can be smoked, injected, snorted, or swallowed.

When used, meth produces a light, subtle, and sweet smell. In some cases, it smells like ammonia or vinegar. When it’s being made in a lab, it has a strong chemical smell that resembles:

  • Hospital smells
  • Acetone or nail polish remover
  • Paint or paint thinner
  • Urine
  • Rotten eggs
  • Burning plastic
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Updated on January 27, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on January 27, 2023
  1. "What is methamphetamine?" National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.
  2. "How is methamphetamine manufactured?" National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.
  3. "What treatments are effective for people who misuse methamphetamine?" National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.
  4. "What is fentanyl?" National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019. 
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is the Scope of Methamphetamine Misuse in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Methamphetamine Trends & Statistics.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020.
  7. Brecht, Mary-Lynn, and Diane Herbeck. “Time to Relapse Following Treatment for Methamphetamine Use: A Long-Term Perspective on Patterns and Predictors.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Elsevier, 2014.

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