While some people say methamphetamine has no odor, others claim the powerful stimulant drug has a subtle chemical smell reminiscent of ammonia or acetone. The scent of meth stems from the chemical ingredients used to manufacture the illegal drug.
The drug causes a host of troubling effects, including extreme agitation, aggression and insomnia. However faint or strong, meths chemical aroma stems from its ingredients and the manufacturing process often creates noxious fumes.
Meth is made by combining a variety of household products and agricultural chemicals with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, a decongestant found in over-the-counter cold remedies such as Sudafed. Drain cleaner WD-40 Lithium batteries Starter fluid Iodine Table or rock salt Anhydrous ammonia Meth labs often emit a powerful ammonia-like odor that smells similar to cat urine, window cleaner or fertilizer.
Ether Paint thinner or varnish A sour or vinegary scent Hair or nail salons (acetone) The foul fumes associated with meth labs are toxic and can remain for months after a manufacturing site is abandoned or shut down. Inhaling the toxic fumes can cause breathing problems, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and other symptoms.
Ingredients used to make the drug are highly corrosive and may cause intense burns on the skin and mucous membranes of the nose, throat and eyes. Because of these health dangers, first responders must wear gas masks and hazmat suits when investigating or dismantling sites where the drug is made. Exposure to chemicals from a meth lab can also damage a childs immune system and trigger cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.
Studies have shown that sites where methamphetamine is manufactured can remain contaminated for weeks, months and possibly even years. Residue from meth production can seep into carpet, furniture, drapes and drywall, and it can easily be absorbed through the skin. Symptoms of exposure to meth residue include headaches, nausea and vomiting, eye irritation and respiratory problems.
We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Content Writer,DrugRehab.com
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options.
She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Centers patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Cares 2015 national conference.
In addition to a drugs visual appearance, scent can be a valuable tool in identifying illicit drug use. Take a look below at some commonly abused substances and how they can be recognized by smell.
The marijuana plant contains psychoactive agents like THC that, when smoked or eaten, produce a high feeling and a variety of physical and mental effects. It produces a frenetic short-term high that hits quickly and is described as making users feel confident and energized.
Its probably not a good idea to give powdered cocaine a big sniff, but its odor can be carefully wafted toward the nose. Some users report odors similar to acetone or gasoline , possibly due to impurities from washing or cutting the drug with other compounds. Unlike some drugs that have no odor or whose scents can become enjoyable to users, the smell of crack is unfailingly unpleasant.
When meth is heated and smoked, the vapors produced can smell strongly of ammoniaan odor sometimes described as being like cat urine. Opioid painkillers are prescription drugs commonly used in medicine for the short-term treatment of severe pain. Opioid pain medications themselves typically dont have much of an odor unless some sort of flavoring or another compound has been added.
Benzos are addictive sedative drugs that are sometimes prescribed for short-term treatment of seizures and anxiety disorders. MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, is a synthetic hallucinogen that produces highly sensory, euphoric experiences and a strong sense of well-being and empathy.
Most of the signs that point towards drug abuse are behavioral. You may notice that your children or loved ones are borrowing more money than usual. Sometimes, there might even be drastic shifts in the way they act, communicate, or treat you and others. While there are a lot of reasons for sudden changes in behavior, you can never rule out the possibility of substance abuse. However, these signs alone cant be definitive evidence for drug abuse. Thankfully, most drugs have a distinct smell, especially when theyre smoked. Because of this, your nose can be a crucial instrument in detecting drug use in your loved ones.
A lot like the scent of meth labs, cocaine smells like mixed chemicals and burning plastic. Some describe the odor of marijuana as earthy and herbal, while some say it carries notes of lemon, plum, or diesel.
The ether used in producing PCP has a distinct chemical smell and can usually be detected on a person who uses the drug in its liquid form. There are two particular kinds of drugs that users would say smell like burnt plastic: crack cocaine and meth. Although it may be difficult to distinguish which is which between the two drugs, the smell of burning plastic or chemicals coming from any substance should be enough of a sign that it is dangerous.
Being alerted by certain smells you pick up can help address the possibility that someone you love may be using illegal drugs recreationally. It does not necessarily reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. The purpose of this blog is not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site.
Beyond Appearance: Identifying Different Illegal Drug Smells
In addition to a drug’s visual appearance, scent can be a valuable tool in identifying illicit drug use. Take a look below at some commonly abused substances and how they can be recognized by smell.
What Does Alcohol Smell Like?
Alcohol is a legal substance that many drink occasionally for enjoyment. When an addiction sets in, however, the smell of alcohol on a person’s breath or in their beverages can be a big red flag. Its smell may be slightly easier to pick out than that of other substances, simply because it’s socially familiar.All alcoholic beverages share the somewhat “sharp” smell of ethanol. The higher the alcohol content, the stronger the smell is likely to be. The smell of vodka, for example, is often compared to that of rubbing alcohol. Different drinks can smell malty, bitter, or sweet, but underneath it all is the signature smell of ethanol.
What Does Marijuana Smell Like?
Marijuana (a.k.a. “pot” or “weed”) is an extremely common plant-based drug that is used both medicinally and recreationally. The marijuana plant contains psychoactive agents like THC that, when smoked or eaten, produce a high feeling and a variety of physical and mental effects.Marijuana is perhaps one of the must pungent-smelling drugs, as the plant tissue is full of aromatic compounds called terpenes. Different strains of the plant can have different smells, but one of the most recognizable is a smell reminiscent of a skunk’s spray. If you’ve been wondering what drug smells like skunk, it’s probably marijuana.
What Does Heroin Smell Like?
Heroin is a highly addictive and illicit opioid drug that is derived from morphine. Usually sold as a white or brown-tinged powder, heroin can be smoked, snorted, or dissolved and injected. The darker the heroin’s color, the more impurities the substance is likely to have. Heroin creates a fast, intense high characterized by euphoric relaxation.Heroin often has a vinegar-like smell. If the washing process is insufficient to remove impurities, these impurities can create the vinegar smell that users describe. The milder the smell, the purer the heroin is likely to be.
What Does Cocaine Smell Like?
Cocaine is a powdery white stimulant that is most often snorted or ingested orally. It produces a frenetic short-term high that hits quickly and is described as making users feel confident and energized.It’s probably not a good idea to give powdered cocaine a big sniff, but its odor can be carefully wafted toward the nose. The smell is primarily that of methyl benzoate, the compound used to train drug-sniffing dogs to find cocaine. Some users report odors similar to acetone or gasoline, possibly due to impurities from washing or cutting the drug with other compounds.
What Does Crack Smell Like?
Crack, or “crack cocaine,” is a hard crystalline drug processed from powdered cocaine. The drug is typically smoked using a pipe, though injection and snorting use has been reported. Crack is much more addictive than regular cocaine, and it can even lead to dependency after one use.Unlike some drugs that have no odor or whose scents can become enjoyable to users, the smell of crack is unfailingly unpleasant. When it is heated for smoking or injection, crack has a distinctive and powerful “chemical” odor. Some have described it as smelling like melting plastic or burning rubber. If you’ve wondered what drug smells like burning plastic, it’s probably crack.
What Does Meth Smell Like?
Meth is a highly addictive stimulant drug that is synthesized into a crystalline form. The resulting crystals can then be smoked, crushed, and snorted; dissolved and injected; or even swallowed. Meth produces a fast, euphoric high, but it can also cause devastating damage to the brain and body.Some say that meth has little to no odor, while others report smelling an acetone or ammonia scent (again, probably due to processing). When meth is heated and smoked, the vapors produced can smell strongly of ammonia—an odor sometimes described as being like cat urine.
What Do Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax) Smell Like?
“Benzos” are addictive sedative drugs that are sometimes prescribed for short-term treatment of seizures and anxiety disorders. They can also be misused by individuals looking to achieve a relaxed and pleasant-feeling high. Most benzodiazepine medications are prescribed orally, but they also can be injected into the veins or muscles.Benzodiazepine medications don’t have much of a smell on their own (especially in pill form), but they may have a general “chemical” smell when smoked. Depending on the medication and its preparation, there may be impurities or other elements that affect its odor.
What Does MDMA (Ecstasy) Smell Like?
MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, is a synthetic hallucinogen that produces highly sensory, euphoric experiences and a strong sense of well-being and empathy. The drug is usually taken in powder or capsule form via snorting or oral ingestion. The party drug “Molly” is also meant to be MDMA, but research has found that much of what is being sold as Molly often contains little to no MDMA at all.In its purest form, MDMA should be completely colorless and odorless. With impurities, however, various smells can be present. Some users have described the smell of the MDMA they’ve taken as being like black licorice or root beer.