Addicts making methamphetamine in a new and crude way is creating a new problem for physicians. It is filling hospitals across the United States with thousands of uninsured burn patients needing millions of dollars in medical care. It is also leading to the closure of some hospital burn units. Shake and bath methamphetamine is made by mixing ingredients in a two liter plastic soda bottle. If the person making the mixture is careless, the stuff can explode, causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or death.
Most methamphetamine burn patients are uninsured and the average treatment costs a staggering $6,000 per day. The average meth patient’s hospital stay totals $130,000 – 60 percent more than the care for other burn patients.
“You’re holding a flamethrower in your hands,” said Jason Grellner of the Franklin County, Missouri Sheriff’s Department.
Physicians are frustrated by the increase in methamphetamine burn patients, and know that few people burned by meth will admit to their physician.
“We get a lot of people who have strange stories,” said Dr. David Greenhalgh, past president of the American Burn Association and director of the burn center at the University of California – Davis. “They’ll say they were working on the carburetor at 2 or 3 in the morning and things blew up. So we don’t know for sure, but 25 to 35 percent of our patients are meth positive when we check them.”