The makeshift shake and bake method of making methamphetamine is sending thousands of uninsured burn patients to hospitals across our nation. Combined they require millions of dollars in treatment. Since most are uninsured the hospital absorbs the cost, which is contributing to the closure of some burn units.
The one pot method is made by combining unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. If the person mixing the poisonous concoction makes even the smallest mistake, like removing the cap too soon or accidentally puncturing the plastic bottle, the vile stuff can explode. The explosion combined with the dangerous chemicals, burns flesh and may cause permanent disfigurement or blindness, and possibly even death in some cases.
An Associated Press survey of several states with high methamphetamine activity showed that up to a third of the patients in some burn units had suffered meth related burns, and most were uninsured. Treatment costs can be $6,000 per day and their stay may be lengthy due to the severity of the burns from the fire and the chemical burn damage to their lungs and windpipe and may reach $130,000.
Consolidation has played a part in some of the seven burn units which have recently closed, but the cost of treating uninsured patients is the main contributing factor. And many of the uninsured cases were linked to methamphetamine manufacturing.
Most of the burn patients that are discovered to be meth users or manufacturers lie about how they were burned. This complicates the process of trying to determine the dollar amount that taxpayers have to pay, but it is estimated to be at least tens if not hundreds of millions. Big meth labs in homes, garages, sheds, etc. have been exploding for years, but the health risk for the shake and bake method is that the meth maker often holds the container close to their body. This causes severe burns from the face to the waist.
The one pot method has become popular because the addict or meth maker can carry everything he or she needs in a backpack. This method is also quicker; it produces meth in a matter of minutes after the volatile solution is combined. This can be accomplished in a bathroom stall or a car. The convenience of the one pot method has helped many people to make their own meth instead of buying it from a meth manufacturer, who has a big production lab. But the shake and bake method comes with many risks and is a huge factor in the rising count of burn patients.
Around three fourths of the meth lab busts in Indiana are now of the shake and bake variety. Niki Crawford of the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Team says the one pot method is the culprit for the rise in meth injuries, which are mainly serious burns. She also stated that Indiana had eighty-nine meth related injuries from 1999 to 2009, but has now had over seventy in twenty-three months.
Some burn victims suffer such severe damage that reconstructive surgery is warranted and with only approximately ten percent having insurance coverage, it is left to the hospital to absorb the cost and thus is passed on to the taxpayer.