Thursday, January 26, 2012

Meth fills hospital with burn patients as everyone tries to make their own

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A crude new method of making methamphetamine poses a risk even to Americans who never get anywhere near the drug: It is filling hospitals with thousands of uninsured burn patients requiring millions of dollars in advanced treatment - a burden so costly that it's contributing to the closure of some burn units.

So-called shake-and-bake meth is produced by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. But if the person mixing the noxious brew makes the slightest error, such as removing the cap too soon or accidentally perforating the plastic, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death.

An Associated Press survey of key hospitals in the nation's most active meth states showed that up to a third of patients in some burn units were hurt while making meth, and most were uninsured. The average treatment costs $6,000 per day. And the average meth patient's hospital stay costs $130,000 - 60 percent more than other burn patients, according to a study by doctors at a burn center in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The influx of patients is overwhelming hospitals and becoming a major factor in the closure of some burn wards. At least seven burn units across the nation have shut down over the past six years, partly due to consolidation but also because of the cost of treating uninsured patients, many of whom are connected to methamphetamine. Read More