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  • As a Schedule II controlled substance, crystal methamphetamine is illegally produced, sold, and consumed without regulation. 

    This means any batch of methamphetamine may be cut, mixed, or faked with harmful agents or additives, including bath salts and the deadly opioid fentanyl.

    Why Is Meth Cut Or Faked?

    Mixing or replacing methamphetamine with less-expensive cutting agents or drugs allows dealers and producers to stretch their profits. 

    This is especially common among dark-web internet sales, festivals or club scenes, or sales to inexperienced customers unfamiliar with the experience and side effects of pure methamphetamine.

    How To Identify Fake Meth

    Without access to advanced equipment, identifying fake or adulterated meth can be challenging.

    Visual Identification

    Depending on the specific diluents or adulterants being used, it may or may not be possible to identify fake meth visually.

    Meth is usually a white powder with no smell and a bitter taste. Crystal meth looks like glass fragments or bluish-white rocks.

    Reagent Test Kits

    Drug test and harm reduction kits are available that use specific reagents to identify a wide range of compounds, including the Marquis, Simon’s, Froehde, Liebermann, Mandelin, Mecke, and Folin reagents.

    In the tests, a drop of reagent is added to a small amount of the drug. Color changes are then observed.

    The Marquis test is generally the first one used. Possible results include:

    • methamphetamine/amphetamine: light orange fading to brown
    • fentanyl: brown fading to dark brown
    • MDMA (ecstasy): purple fading to black
    • bath salts (cathinones): yellow
    • other opioids: colors ranging from magenta to violet
    • cocaine: no reaction

    While these tests may be useful when a dealer sells fake or adulterated meth, they are less useful when meth is still present but is heavily diluted with compounds that don’t react with the reagent. These reactions are also highly subject to user error and inconclusive results.

    ​Melting Point Tests

    This test uses the melting point of meth to identify imitation or heavily diluted products.

    First, the drug is heated in mineral or cooking oil until melted, with a thermometer present. When heat is removed crystals will begin to form as the temperature drops:

    • Pure methamphetamine crystalizes quickly at around 170˚C.
    • Cut or imitation methamphetamine will crystalize more slowly at a lower temperature

    Common Fake Meth Substances

    Common substances sold as fake meth or used to dilute or adulterate meth can include:

    MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)

    MSM is a supplement sold to relieve muscle pain, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. MSN is a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) compound, meaning that it is not known to have any harmful effects on the human body.

    MSM is a fine, crystalline powder that is highly soluble in water and will crystallize into methamphetamine crystals directly.

    ISO (N-isopropylbenzylamine)

    ISO (and related compounds N-Methylbenzylamine, N-ethylbenzylamine, and dimethyl sulfone) is another crystalline compound that is visually similar to methamphetamine, though it does not have stimulant effects on the body.

    ISO is not a controlled substance. It is thought to cause headaches and confusion, though its toxicity in the body is not well-tested.

    Flakka & Bath Salts

    Flakka and bath salts are cathinones that often come as white or pink crystals (not dissimilar to crystal meth). 

    These illicit drugs have been deemed New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), putting them among a range of inexpensive man-made stimulants that have severe and unpredictable effects.

    Flakka and bath salts can cause a stimulant high with increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as feelings of euphoria, focus, and boundless energy. 

    NPS drug abuse can also lead to a state of “excited delirium” with increased strength, paranoia, hallucinations, disassociation, and violent behavior, especially when the drugs are vaped or smoked.

    Bath salts and flakka have been identified by law enforcement following violent and bizarre crimes. They can also cause life-threatening overdose symptoms which cannot be reversed by police officers or first responders using antidote kits.


    Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is frequently cut into counterfeit prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs like cocaine and meth.

    Although less common than other meth cutting agents, increases in drug overdose deaths involving meth and fentanyl suggest that fake meth may sometimes contain the deadly opioid.

    Treatment For Methamphetamine Addiction

    Meth, whether pure or diluted, is habit-forming and harmful. Professional addiction treatment programs can help you or your loved ones break free methamphetamine addiction and the risks that come with it.

    To learn more about our treatment programs, contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Dance Safe - Testing Kit Instructions
    Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Drugs of Abuse
    Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Bath Salts
    Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Methamphetamine
    Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists - CrimeScene Volume 34 Issue 4

    Medically Reviewed by
    Lauren Weinand, M.D.
    on January 17, 2023
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