In July 2019, a police department in Loretto, Tennessee posted a message to their Facebook page that would take on a life of its own, spreading far and wide, going “viral” for reasons that weren’t exactly what they’d had in mind. It’s a familiar tale in this age of the internet where words on a screen can struggle — or fail altogether — to deliver a message as it was intended.
The post was eventually deleted after it hit nearly every news station you could imagine, including CNN and NBC, as well as making its way across the pond, as they say, to make the rounds in the United Kingdom.
In the post, police asked residents to please not flush their drugs or drug paraphernalia because it could “…end up in retention ponds, where wildlife often resides,” going on to say, “Ducks, geese, and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds, and we shudder to think what one…on meth would do,” it said.
After that, the possibility of a “meth gator” was brought up in the post, which is where the world-wide portion of the web started paying attention, rather than just Loretto, Tennessee — which, according to the United States Census Bureau, currently has less than 2,000 residents.
The Loretto PD admitted it had referenced a “meth gator” in an attempt at humor and had zero evidence one actually existed. Their main point was about the dangers of flushing hazardous substances down the toilet, although it was obviously overshadowed by joking about a subject with serious consequences.
But in truth, “meth gators” offer a perfect opportunity to discuss the very real dangers of disposing of hazardous chemicals, and specifically of methamphetamine (meth). Meth is highly dangerous and addictive for a person to consume, of course, but it and its ingredients can be highly toxic just from coming into contact with a person’s skin.
Rivers Run Through Our World
It may not be first on someone’s mind when they are flushing their toilet, but as this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document urges, we should all be flushing responsibly. This is because our sewage is treated specifically for organic materials, “…not hazardous
chemicals,” the EPA specified. “If you pour hazardous chemicals down the drain, they might end up in your local rivers, lakes, and coastal waters,” they said, echoing what the Loretto PD in Tennessee stated.
All the bodies of water mentioned are connected to vast and complex networks of wildlife that, at some point, also includes us humans. And although there is no evidence of a “meth gator” to be found, the idea of a hazardous chemical affecting wildlife — and yes, humans as well — is absolutely plausible, and something we should try to avoid at all costs.
Specifically, however, meth is a substance that should never be disposed of without the guidance of hazardous chemical professionals. This is because meth is made of not just one toxic substance, but a combination of them.
Why Meth Is So Toxic
As you may know, meth is a drug that is manufactured by combining a variety of substances, some of which can be found at local gas stations or drug stores. It’s a stimulant that directly interacts with humans’ central nervous systems and can lead to surges of energy, loss of sleep, and a long list of side effects. It is cheap to manufacture, purchase, and is also highly addictive.
One of the most common ingredients is pseudoephedrine, also known as ephedrine, which is sometimes found in over-the-counter cold medicines. After the manufacturing and selling of meth hit American communities particularly hard, authorities began limiting how much cold medicine a person could buy, or requiring identification checks and signing a log indicating the purchase.
It’s not just pseudoephedrine, however. Meth is commonly made, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, with
- Paint thinner
- Freon® (engine antifreeze)
- Anhydrous ammonia
- Iodine crystals
- Red phosphorus
- Drain cleaner
- Battery acid
- Lithium (from batteries)
- Brake fluid
- Brake cleaner
Each of these ingredients has a purpose but are being misused to create a highly corrosive, addictive, and destructive substance in meth. Consuming or coming into unsafe contact with any of these substances is incredibly dangerous, which is why meth labs can cause massive amounts of damage as they are active, potentially leading to burns, explosions, or suffocation.
Likewise, this means meth labs remain dangerous even after they are abandoned. The possibility of being poisoned through chemical contact with the skin or eyes is still very much a concern. If meth in any of its forms is flushed down the toilet it could potentially deliver all of these chemicals into water that may eventually come into contact with plant or animal life.
What Does Meth Look Like?
There are many different forms of meth, although the crystal version is perhaps the most well-known due to various forms of media and pop culture, such as the TV show Breaking Bad. It can also come in a powder and tablets or pills. The powder form is particularly good at dissolving in water or alcohol, which is yet another reason someone should never flush meth down the toilet.
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Safely Disposing Of Meth
The first step to properly disposing of meth or meth-related production materials is to contact the authorities, whether this is your local department of health or the police department. A lot of decisions have to be made about when and where to dispose of hazardous materials, decisions that should be left up to the professionals.
The Diversion Control Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has some information about safely imsposing of certain substances, but again, contacting professionals is the first step to be taken.
Getting Help With Meth Is No Laughing Matter
Most likely the Loretto PD did not mean to make light of meth addiction. It’s important to remember meth is both highly dangerous and addictive. A person who has consumed meth could end up addicted quickly and begin experiencing symptoms such as sleeplessness (even being unable to sleep for between three and 15 days), paranoia, potential violent outbursts, and severe depression.
Another possible outcome of extended or chronic use of meth is a dissociative state sometimes compared to schizophrenia or a “psychotic break.” Along with that, meth can wreak havoc on a person’s health and lead to continually picking at their skin, weight loss, and “meth mouth” from a lack of oral hygiene and other variables.
Whether you need help or you are seeking help for someone you know, it is possible to recover from meth addiction.
Vertava Health Can Help
Vertava Health has comprehensive and compassionate inpatient rehab available for anyone seeking treatment for meth addiction. Each person is assessed and will begin a treatment program that is specifically designed and chosen for them. All of Vertava Health’s treatments are evidence-based, such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for those who are struggling to abstain from meth.
We know each person who begins recovery has the strength within themselves to achieve long-term recovery from addiction. It’s never an easy journey, but it is one that can result in a total lifestyle change that will lead to a renewed focus on life and a positive outlook for the future. Call Vertava Health today at (615) 208-2941 to talk about getting help for addiction.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Meth Gators?
“Meth gators” are a reference to a news story that circulated in 2019 about a Facebook post urging people not to flush their methamphetamine (meth) down the toilet. There have been zero documented cases of alligators being intoxicated with meth that has been flushed down a toilet. The reference to “meth gators” was made as a joke by authorities about the possible contamination of groundwater with hazardous chemicals.
Which State Did Meth Gators Come From?
The original mention of “meth gators” was made on the Facebook page of the Loretta, Tennessee Police Department. The post has now been deleted.