Meth Burns Carry More Than One Kind of Cost

By McCarton Ackerman 01/24/12

Burn units struggle to cope with the many uninsured victims of a dangerous method of cooking meth.

Up to a third of burns victims in some
units are meth-related.
Photo via

A cheap and easy method of cooking small quantities of meth—known as "shake-and-bake" or the "one pot" method—is costing taxpayers millions of dollars and contributing to the closures of some burn units. An Associated Press survey, gathering findings from key hospitals in the most active meth states, shows up to a third of patients in some burn units picked their injuries from making meth, and most were uninsured. Research by doctors at a burn center in Kalamazoo, MI, found treatment for meth burns costs $6,000 a day on average, with an average hospital stay costing $130,000—60% higher than for other burn patients. Seven burn units across the US have shut down in the last six years due to the cost of treating uninsured patients, many connected to meth. “I don’t think a lot of these patients will be able to re-enter society. They’ll need rehab therapy and occupational therapy, which is very expensive,” says Dr. Lucy Wibbenmeyer of the University of Iowa burn center. Shake-and-bake meth is made by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. Even small errors like removing the cap too soon can lead to explosions that cause permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death. In 2010, 80% of labs busted by the DEA were using this method.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.