Depending on the quality of the methamphetamine, its form can be anything from a brown, gooey substance to a white crystal substance. It is usually packaged in small plastic bags, Tupperware containers or tin Altoids containers.

Low-grade meth, which looks like oily salt, sells on West Coast streets for about $450 to $550 an ounce; an eighth of an ounce costs $100 to $120; a 'teener,' or one-sixteenth of an ounce (a normal day's supply), is $60; an ounce of high-quality crystal meth, or ice, is silver-white and sells for $600 to $800 per ounce.

The main ingredient in meth is pseudoephedrine, which is found in over-the-counter cold and allergy drugs such as Sudafed. Other supplies on a meth cook's 'shopping list' include: red phosphorus (matchbooks, fireworks), anhydrous ammonia (an agricultural fertilizer), paint thinner, acetone, table/rock salt, sodium hydroxide (lye), ether (engine starter), gasoline, lithium (camera batteries) and iodine.

Items such as pseudoephedrine are tightly regulated at most pharmacies, but meth cooks sometimes buy the pills illegally in bulk from small grocers or rely on large shipments smuggled in from Canada or Mexico.

Ñ Jennifer Anderson

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