What Is Methamphetamine Cut With

What Is Methamphetamine Cut With? Common Meth Cutting Agents

Written by:

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Medical Review by:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., M.S.

Medically Reviewed On: May 26, 2024

Meth is produced in illicit labs and may be cut with dangerous additives. Some common cutting agents include household items like baking soda and caffeine, harmful chemicals like acetone, and potent drugs like fentanyl.

Methamphetamine – commonly known as meth – is an intense central nervous system stimulant drug. Though it’s occasionally used as a second-line treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it’s primarily an illicit recreational drug that’s made and sold in illegal meth labs and markets.[1]

The drug is not only dangerous in and of itself, but it may be cut with harmful additives that can lead to toxicity and fatality, such as lithium, iodine, and sulfuric acid. [2] These additives are used to intensify or alter the effects of the drug or bulk it up to improve profit margin. Because it’s an illicit process, there’s no regulation over meth production.

What Is Methamphetamine Cut With?

Numerous methamphetamine-cutting agents may be used to alter the effects of the drug. Some meth may be cut with metal as well, which is an accidental result of the meth production process.

Here are several common methamphetamine cutting agents:

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is another common meth cutting agent

Powder-Like Substances

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is another common meth cutting agent

Common additives or cutting agents may range from everyday substances like baby powder or baking soda to bulk up the product. These powders are white, so they blend easily with meth in white powder or tablet form.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is another common cutting agent and may be hidden in meth products.[3] On its own, this chemical is an odorless and colorless dietary supplement.

According to a bulletin from the National Drug Intelligence Center, “MSM usually is added to methamphetamine during the final stages of production. Methamphetamine cut with MSM often appears to be uncut because after the chemicals are combined and the mixture cools, the MSM recrystallizes, resembling pure methamphetamine.”

Meth is derived from amphetamines


Meth is derived from amphetamines

Meth is derived from amphetamines and products that contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. This manufacturing process often introduces ingredients as impurities in the finished product.[4] Some of these cutting agents include:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Caffeine
  • Ambroxol
  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Procaine
  • Dimethyl sulfone
  • Barbital
  • Ketamine
  • Desloratadine
Metals may be used in meth production


Metals may be used in meth production

Metals like palladium, nickel, and lithium may be used in meth production, often ending up in the finished product. Metal toxicity can cause symptoms like kidney failure and neurological problems.[5]

Fentanyl meth cutting agent


Fentanyl meth cutting agent

Fentanyl is arguably the most concerning cutting agent that can show up in illicit meth. Beginning in 2019, an alarming trend of street drugs laced with fentanyl resulted in a high number of overdose deaths.[6] Both meth and fentanyl are extremely potent and dangerous on their own, let alone combined.

Fentanyl is not only found in psychostimulants like methamphetamine but also in other street drugs like heroin and cocaine. It takes shockingly small amounts of fentanyl to be fatal, and it’s virtually impossible to detect without testing a sample in a lab.

Other Ingredients from Meth Production

Other Ingredients from Meth Production

Other Ingredients from Meth Production

Most meth is produced in unsafe, illegal meth labs using cold medicine. This process introduces a lot of hazardous chemicals, including:

  • Lithium
  • Hydriodic acid
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Red phosphorus
  • Acetone

Any of these chemicals can be hazardous when inhaled or ingested.

Dangers of Meth Additives

Mixing meth or other drugs with other contaminants increases health risks. Meth is dangerous on its own, but some additives can increase the risk of health problems, overdose, and death. For example, combining stimulants like meth with depressants can mask overdose symptoms until it’s too late for medical intervention.[7]

Non-pharmaceutical additives also present risks. Baking soda or powdered milk is generally safe, but it can be harmful if smoked or injected. Chemicals and metals can irritate the lungs or cause serious burns in the mouth and throat.

Smoking meth with cutting agents carries risks, but so does inject it. Some additives can’t be dissolved effectively, leading to large particles that can end up in the bloodstream. As they build up, they can cause a blockage and damage to vital organs.

Learn More About Treatment For Meth Use

How to Tell If Meth Is Cut with a Cutting Agent

It’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to tell if meth has been produced with a cutting agent. Generally, meth must be tested in a lab to be certain of its contents.

When meth is cut with drugs that produce different side effects, however, you may be able to guess based on the signs and symptoms. For example, chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine and causes drowsiness, which is an offset of the high energy that meth causes.

Meth may produce effects like:[8]

  • Hyperthermia (high body temperature)
  • Anxiety and confusion
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Violent behaviors
  • Inability to sleep
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Jerky, erratic movements and twitching
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor dental hygiene and dental disease

The effects of meth with cutting agents depend on the cutting agents. Cutting meth is an inexact process. So using cut meth could produce any number of effects, including fatality.

Methamphetamine Use Disorder

Meth is highly addictive. People with methamphetamine use disorder – the term for meth addiction – struggle to quit using meth despite the negative effects in their lives. This often includes adverse health effects and risks, so the added risks of cutting agents aren’t enough to cause them to quit.

Illicit forms of meth also increase the risk of developing a meth addiction with regular use. Combining meth with other drugs can produce different effects that lead the user to seek out more to maintain the euphoria, quickly leading to addiction.

Warning Icon

With physical dependence, quitting meth comes with significant withdrawal symptoms like:[9]

Meth Addiction Treatment

Meth is an extremely risky drug on its own, but unknown cutting agents greatly exacerbate the risks of meth use. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction, help is available.

The first step is usually medical detox. Though meth withdrawal is not usually fatal, it can be extremely uncomfortable and difficult to get through. Detox helps manage the symptoms and ensure you’re safe and comfortable while the drug makes its way out of your system.

Following detox, you have the option to enter an inpatient treatment center. Inpatient is an intensive treatment option that includes 24/7 care in a facility that allows you to focus on recovery without the distraction of your day-to-day responsibilities.

Every level of care will be tailored to your unique circumstances and history, co-occurring disorders, and treatment goals. Individual therapy, group therapy, and behavioral therapies may be included.

Learn More About Treatment

Frequently Asked Questions


What Do They Cut Methamphetamine With?


Other than pharmaceutical-grade methamphetamine, methamphetamine is produced in illicit labs and cut with other substances like lithium metal, hydrochloric acid, iodine, and sulfuric acid.


What Is MSM Cutting Agent?


MSM is a chemical used to treat arthritis and reduce inflammation. It’s often added to meth to increase its volume and mimic the appearance of pure methamphetamine, though there’s no indication that it is effective or safe.


What Are Common Cutting Agents for Ice?


Ice, or crystal meth, is the purer, more concentrated, and more potent form of methamphetamine that looks like rocks or glass-like shards.[10] Crystal meth is usually produced in chemical “super labs” to preserve its potency with few to no additives. Still, crystal meth can contain dangerous cutting agents like other forms of meth.


NIDA. 2019, May 16. Methamphetamine DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine on 2023, June 23.


Environmental hazards from methamphetamine production. Drug Policy Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugpolicyfacts.org/node/395 on 2023, June 23.


National Drug Intelligence Center. Information Bulletin: Crystal Methamphetamine. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs1/1837/1837t.htm on 2023, June 23.


(DOJ), U. S. D. of J. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Justice Methamphetamine Awareness Home Page. Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/olp/methawareness/ on 2023, June 23.


Lithium toxicity – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.-c). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499992/ on 2023, June 23.


Dea warns of methamphetamine and fentanyl drug market built by aftermath of covid-19 in New York. DEA. (n.d.-a). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2021/01/26/dea-warns-methamphetamine-and-fentanyl-drug-market-built-aftermath-covid on 2023, June 23.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022a, February 23). Polysubstance use facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/polysubstance-use/index.html on 2023, June 23.


NIDA. 2019, May 16. Methamphetamine DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine on 2023, June 23.


NIDA. 2019, May 16. Methamphetamine DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine on 2023, June 23.


Crystal Methamphetamine Fast Facts – United States Department of Justice. (n.d.-b). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs5/5049/5049p.pdf on 2023, June 23.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today