Methamphetamine is already a dangerous and highly-addictive substance in and of itself. But when meth is cut with questionable additives, it can be extremely dangerous.

Article at a Glance:

  • Meth purchased on the street can contain a variety of additives.
  • Sometimes the meth is deliberately cut with other substances to change its potency, while in other cases, the impurities are a side effect of the meth production process.
  • It is hard to know if meth has been cut with another substance without lab tests.

Meth Cutting Agents

Methamphetamine purchased on today’s streets is not only dangerous in and of itself; it often contains additives that make it even more harmful to the body. The reasons for adulterating meth are many and varied.

Adding an additional substance makes a product weigh more. If a dealer can buy one kilogram of meth and sell 1.5 kilograms of adulterated meth at the going price, there is a potential for more profit. Some suppliers will also add other substances to boost the potency or effects of the product. Impurities may also remain in meth as byproducts of the chemical reactions used to make the drugs.

Regardless of the reason for adding additional substances into meth, the agents it can be cut with may be indistinguishable from the pure product without a lab test. These additives have the potential to make a dangerous substance even more harmful and deadly.

What Do People Cut Meth With?

Meth can be cut with many different substances. The meth can be deliberately diluted with powders or chemicals to increase their weight. Other medicines are sometimes added to change the effects. Metal impurities can also be an accidental result of the meth production process.

Powder-Like Substances

Commonly used additives, or “cutting” agents, include relatively harmless substances like baby powder, baking soda or powdered milk. Because many of these substances are white in color, they blend in easily with meth in white powder or tablet form.

Smoking is the most common method of using meth, and these additions can be irritating to the lungs when burned and inhaled. They can also be dangerous because they add solid particles into the bloodstream.

Other medicines

Meth is derived from products containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, so other common ingredients in these products often end up as impurities in the finished meth product. These medicines include cough and cold medicines, pain relievers and dietary supplements. In many cases, people will cut meth with agents and impurities like:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Caffeine
  • Phenacetin
  • Ambroxol
  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Desloratadine
  • Barbital
  • Ketamine
  • Procaine
  • Dimethyl Sulfone


Isopropylbenzylamine is a legal industrial chemical that is sometimes used to dilute meth. The substances are very chemically similar and can easily be confused for meth.


Metals like palladium, lithium and nickel are sometimes used in the meth production process. Traces of these metals can then be found in the final meth product. Metal toxicity can cause neurological problems and kidney damage.

How To Tell if Meth Is Cut With a Cutting Agent

It is very difficult to tell if meth has been made with a cutting agent. In the case of inert cutting agents like powdered milk, you may never know. Generally, the drug must be tested in a lab to know for sure what it includes.

However, when meth is cut with drugs that have different side effects than meth, you may know by experiencing the side effects. For example, chlorpheniramine is an antihistamine that causes drowsiness. This may counteract the side effect of increased energy that is often linked to stimulants like meth.

Cutting meth leads to a high degree of unpredictability, varied potency and unknown substances in your body. Using any meth is extremely harmful to the body and potentially fatal. The practice of adulterating meth can make an already highly dangerous behavior even more hazardous.

If you or a loved one are using methamphetamine and are worried about cutting agents, help is available. Meth addiction treatment can start you on the road to a life free from meth and other substances. Contact our helpful representatives to discuss treatment options that may work for your situation. 

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Editor – Rob Alston
Rob Alston has traveled around Australia, Japan, Europe, and America as a writer and editor for industries including personal wellness and recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

Luo, Yangxu; Du, Juan; Xiao, Huadi; et al. “Simultaneous Determination of Methamphet[…] LC-ESI-MS/MS Method.” Journal of Nanomaterials, February 3, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021.

Hedya, Shireen A.; Avula, Akshay; Swoboda, Henry D. “Lithium Toxicity.” StatPearls, November 20, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. “Chlorpheniramine.” July 11, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021.

Anoka, Isaac; Banyika, Andrew Toyi; Banerjee, Pratibha Nath; et al. “A review of the newly identified impurit[…]amphetamine seizures,” Forensic Science International: Synergy, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.