P0158 - How to Highligth a Clandestine Laboratory of Methamphetamine Production ?

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Forensic Department "Environment-Fire-Explosives"

Job title of the first author :

Forensic expert


Clandestine fabrication of narcotics, such as methamphetamine, is a growing issue on an international scale. Risks to public health, criminality,  environmental infringements but also safety risks connected to chemical reaction, like fire or explosion, must be considered.

Aims :

Indeed, clandestin labs are mostly found in place of residence, storage, or vehicle. Those spaces are transformed in more or less short-lived labs, which are difficult to highligth. Methamphetamine production can be initiated from known activ substances like ephedrine and/or pseudoephedrine and three synthetic pathways are commonly employed. However, the chemical products potentially consumed by delinquents with this in mind remain vast and their possession isn’t controled. Confronted by this issue in Overseas Territories, The Gendarmerie Nationale has seized different types of suspicious samples, which may match to the several steps of methamphetamine production. Those samples were sent to the Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale.

Material & methods :

First, the strategy was to analysed targeted drugs by Gaz Chromatography coupled to Mass Spectrometry, before setting up a protocol for the analysis of unidentified products combining different technics. The organic or mineral nature of the sample is determined by Infrared Spectroscopy before caracterization :

  • For organic with the chromatographic profil of volatil compounds (HS/GC-MS) and/or the hight resolution mass spectrum
  • For mineral with the analysis of ionic species with IC-MS

Results :

Targeted and untargeted researches enable us to hightlight synthesis reactives (ammonium nitrate, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine), intermediate mixtures or synthetic chemical residues (sodium nitrate, lye, petroleum fraction White Spirit, trace of reagent) and the produced substance containing 98 % of methamphetamine chlorydrate.

Conclusion :

All the results match the synthetic pathways named « Birch reduction » and/or « Shake and Bake ». The possibility to highlight a clandestine lab offers new perspectives of action regardind the fight against drug trafficking.

Keywords :

Methamphetamine, Clandestin Lab, Drugs


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