CLT #36: Bungee Jumping

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By May 29, 2012 1 comment fun

Meth mouth: not ‘toxins’, just good ol’ tooth decay

As a long-time fan of media critic Jack Shafer, I remember well his diatribes against the myth that ‘meth mouth’ (the tooth decay that afflicts long-time methamphetamine abusers) is caused by the chemistry of methamphetamine or any contaminants from the preparation. The causes (dry mouth and lack of dental care) has been discussed in the peer-reviewed literature.

So I was surprised to see it in the middle of a really interesting article on underground chemistry by Discover Magazine:

In attempting to synthesize crystal meth, these do-it-yourselfers have caused a rash of trailer park explosions and often unwittingly produce a drug coated with toxins like hydroiodic acid. The best way to remove those noxious byproducts is by washing the drug in alcohol using a Büchner funnel, a specialized lab vacuum. But most kitchen chemists have never even heard of it. When this final purification step is skipped, the toxins eat away at the user’s gums, teeth, and inner lining of the cheeks, resulting in a toothless, hollowed-out condition known as “meth mouth.”

No, no, no. What causes ‘meth mouth’? Is it toxins? Is it uneluted hydroiodic acid? Well, let’s look at the American Dental Association page that it links:

The extensive tooth decay is probably caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in dry mouth and long periods of poor oral hygiene. A methamphetamine “high” lasts much longer than that produced by crack cocaine (12 hours versus one hour for cocaine). This can lead to long periods of poor oral hygiene. And while they are high, users often crave high-calorie, carbonated, sugary beverages or they may grind or clench their teeth, all of which can harm teeth.

So, there we have it. There’s no reason to blame hydroiodic acid (or the solvents, or “toxins” or acids in the process) when it comes to ‘meth mouth’; it’s just advanced tooth decay.

By May 26, 2012 2 comments science news, Uncategorized

1 Million Served

Earlier in the week Chemistry Blog crossed the 1 million visitor mark. I just want to say thank you to all the readers and fellow writers that have helped to make this happen. It has been a good 6 years.


By May 25, 2012 6 comments chem 2.0

#ToxicCarnival: Nitroglycerin

Tonight, we make soap.

Matt over at Sciencegeist is organizing this blog carnival in an effort to reclaim the word chemical from the hands of ignorant people who blindly assume anything with ‘chemicals’ in it must be evil. This is not a moment too soon.  I’m not exactly sure how the pendulum of public opinion swung from products being advertised as ‘Better living through chemistry’ to products being advertised as ‘chemical free’ (whatever that means). Soaps and other skin care/beauty products are certainly in the cross-hairs of the ‘chemical free’ crowd, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.

As the tallow renders, you skim off the layer of glycerin. If you were to add nitric acid, you got nitroglycerin.  If you were to add sodium nitrate and a dash of sawdust, you’d have dynamite. 

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