'Breaking Bad' Meth Should Be Yellow

The iconic blue methamphetamine created by Walter White on the AMC show Breaking Bad should have been yellow,
chemist Donna Nelson, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma and the show’s science advisor,
told Vulture.Impurities in the meth — which when pure would be clear — would more likely make it yellow, not blue, Nelson said: “When you crystallize anything that’s colorless, which methylamine crystals are,
they usually come out with a yellow tinge because of impurities.

Another article, on Heisenberg’s Chemistry, says that methamphetamine should be a white powder or a clear crystal.

It’s possible that the chemical reaction that White uses in the show creates a byproduct that is blue, and if not fully separated from the resulting meth could twinge its colour, but that doesn’t seem likely from the P2P chemical reaction — which you can find online.

No recipes we found mention a blue byproduct, and chemist/blogger Puff The Mutant Dragon says “High-purity meth is clear in colour. A blue tint suggests an impurity, but there’s no impurities in the P2P process Walter is using that should colour his final product blue. Is Walter deliberately adding a dash of something else? The show doesn’t say.”

In 2009 and 2010, cops did find blue meth on the streets of Kansas City, and in California, Washington, and Texas. But the colour was created with blue dye or blue chalk, not a blue byproduct from the chemical reaction.

Even if the blue was a byproduct of the reaction, it shouldn’t have been so bright, Nelson said. If White’s product is 99% pure, that only leaves 1% to provide colouring . So, Nelson said, White’s meth’s “blue was a little too blue.”

A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Addiction, found coloured meth in the streets of Tijuana: clear (50%), white (47%), yellow (2%), and pink (1%). When injected, the yellow and pink were more dangerous and were more likely to cause abscesses, which means they had impurities or were adulterated with other chemicals.

Another problem with White’s cook? As it’s written in the literature, it would have created a mixture of two kinds of methamphetamine that are mirror opposites — d-methaphmetamine and l-methamphetamine. The D is the one that gets you high, because L doesn’t bind to your brain’s dopamine receptors as well.

According to the Breaking Bad wiki White may have devised some clever way to get around this issue:

It is also possible, however, that Walt devised a method (not shown onscreen) for making the P2P process chirally selective and thus producing nearly 100% d-methamphetamine. This is strongly implied when Walt asks Victor, “And if our reduction is not stereospecific, then how can our product be enantiomerically pure?” (“Box Cutter“).

Breaking Bad is returning this Sunday Aug. 11 for the final episodes of Season Five. We are hoping for even more science in these final episodes.

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