With many clues, they lose.
But this is not "Breaking Bad" – the method is not only used by the poor and the oppressed.
Meth no longer discriminates in Asia. has become the dominant drug of choice across the region, regardless of class, age or gender, according to Jeremy Douglas, who is in charge of the United Nations Drugs and Crime Organization (UNODC) in South East Asia.
In a career spanning 16 years, Douglas said he has never seen this demand.
"No situation is exactly comparable, but this is out of the map," he said.
Experts say the explosion is due to a serious combination of national and geopolitical issues that have been aligned for the benefit of the region's drug gangs.
The majority of methane production occurs deep within the jungles of the Golden Triangle, a legitimate area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. Experts say it's easy to hide drug production there and move it in a short time.
Drug traffickers, meanwhile, are taking advantage of new roads and infrastructure built in the context of an ambitious $ 3 trillion Chinese initiative to link markets across the globe, using the flow of people and legitimate goods to conceal drug trafficking.
And profits, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars, are washed through sophisticated international systems, often using companies in countries where loose supervision makes it easy to conceal money.
"It's a perfect storm in the production of methamphetamine," says John Coyne, a former Australian federal police chief secret service chief, who is currently working on border security issues at Australia's Institute of Strategic Policy.
"It emphasizes South East Asia in what could be a methamphetamine epidemic for a long time".
Perhaps most important is the United States Army of Wa (UWSA) and its political wing, the United States Party of the Party (UWSP).
The two of them conducted a long struggle for autonomy for the population of ethnic Wa, people sharing a common language and cultural and historical ties with their neighbors in the southern Yunnan province of China.
The Shan State has an exciting combination of a good poppy cultivating the climate and a lack of law enforcement. For years, the Golden Triangle has been the source of the majority of illicit heroin and opium in the world.
Western authorities have long been accused of UWSA and UWSP funding their armed struggle against Myanmar's central government with the profits from drug production. UWSA is believed to have around 30,000 fighters.
Official figures appeared to give credit to the claim that UWSA no longer produces heroin, at least at first glance. Gold triangle production and distribution has fallen, according to United Nations figures.
"There is a lot of evidence coming from across the region and pointing back to the same teams, pointing back to the same positions," Douglas said with the UNODC.
UWSA's decision to enter the methane game, experts say, is partly a response to market forces but is also produced by profitability and ease of production.
Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug. It is made in a laboratory that uses chemicals and does not require the manufacturers of medicines to cultivate organic crops, such as poppies, as is the case with heroin.
These workshops can be covered by a tarp or moved in a short time. You can not do this with a poppy field.
Beijing has big plans in Myanmar, where it has spent billions to link China's provincial Yunnan Province to the port cities of South and Southeast Asia. Laos and Thailand showed similar investments.
An undesirable side effect of these infrastructure improvements is that they have facilitated methane traders to transport products from deep into the Shan state to the rest of Southeast Asia, Coyne said.
"What you have is a large, legitimate trade of people, goods, etc., which flows from Myanmar and Laos, where you can hide your drugs," said Coyne.
This year, authorities carried out dozens of methane seizures in Thailand, China, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Impressively, it took only five months for seizures in Malaysia and Myanmar to overtake the overall 2017, according to Douglas.
While these busts could mean that law enforcement wins the fight against traffickers, it also shows that the huge amount of methane is moving.
Coyne warns of another possibility – that methane producers have gone into overproduction, which reduces the cost per unit of drug production, which in turn makes it easier for traders to live with these huge busts.
"They have the luxury of losing larger quantities and earning more profits," he said.
All this money has to go somewhere and the police say drug dealers use complex financial networks to hide their profits.
The most prominent – at least public – is the case of Zhao Wei, a gambling tycoon accused by the US government of using his casino in Laos to help UWSA's sales of meth.
Casinos are used for money laundering because they are involved in so much money for cash, but Zhao has the added advantage of operating within what Douglas calls the UNODC "criminal ministerial state".
"It works like its own corking," said Douglas.
Zhao has reportedly negotiated a 99-year lease with the Lao government to operate what is known as the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone. The belt is located along the Mekong River crossing Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. In its center is the Kings Romans casino.
Zhao's agreement with the Lao government allows his business to operate according to its own set of unique laws, rules and regulations.
The only areas in which Zhao attributes to the central government are issues related to Lao's army, judiciary and foreign policy, Zhao said Chinese state media in 2011.
Zhao has consistently argued that the accusations against him are "unfounded".
"The investment and development of the Kings Romans Group are strictly in compliance with the law and have signed agreements, there are no reasons or incentives to conduct illegal operations, but we have worked with the Lao government to prevent and combat strictly illegal acts. "
The Department of Planning and Investment in Laos has not responded to CNN's request for comment, and the US drug enforcement agency has rejected CNN's request for an interview on this story "due to some ongoing case-related activities."
The US Treasury Department, which has not responded to CNN's request for comment on this story, claims that a major gear in the Zhao operation lies thousands of miles away from its casino in the hurry of Hong Kong.
This gear is a company called Kings Romans International (HK) Co., Limited. In January of this year, he and Zano were ratified by the Treasury.
According to the records of the US Treasury Department. and the Hong Kong Corporate Register, the company is housed in a Spartan office tower called Wu Chung House, located in a commercial district of the city's lively Wan Chai district, its weak rods.
The Treasury did not specify what exactly is happening in the office. Hong Kong, however, retains its reputation as a notorious center for moving dirty money, while city authorities openly acknowledge the problem.
"Our competitive advantages here – in particular, free flows of capital, people, goods and information, an established legal system, sophisticated market infrastructure and advanced professional services make our market attractive to criminals who try to hide or transfer funds or to avoid financial sanctions, "said Arthur Yiwen, HKMA Deputy Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in April, during a conference sponsored by the Union Trust Specialists against Xenophobia.
The Kings Romans office is supposed to be at the end of a faintly illuminated corridor on the 36th floor of Wu Chung House, according to public records, but there was no sign when visiting CNN.
The list of the building shows that a company called Shuen Wai Holding Limited uses the office space. Property records confirm that Shuen Wai is the owner of the property.
"It is absolutely certain that UWSA will operate from Hong Kong, has a long history of mixing illegal with legal activities … and Hong Kong is the perfect place to do that for them," said Evan Rees , analyst at the Stratfor information company.
Below the dark corridor at the entrance of the office, Shuen Wai is the only business that is visible. Its name appears in bold uppercase letters above the office of the empty secretary. It is decorated with ornate wooden sculptures and marble floors, but with half the lights off and no one sees.
The fact that the business was particularly visible was a surprise to some of CNN's sanction specialists spoke with the case.
"They usually try to at least redefine the point, even if it's the same address and the same character stamp in front of you," said Peter Harrell, expert on sanctions at the New American Security Center, assistant secretary to fight the threat of funding and sanctions at the Office of Finance and Business Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Working 10 years without changing the name, that's pretty fresh."
When CNN hit the bell in the office, a middle-aged, fledged man replied. He said the company had been involved in the jade trade, but now he is working on the funeral.
He refused to give CNN his name, but said he was an account manager for the company for 20 years, during which he met the two people currently listed as co-directors of Shuen Wai. He said the twin is based in mainland China and only comes to Hong Kong a few times a year, two days at a time. He agreed to send them a message from CNN – which did not answer – and then dropped back to the office. When CNN called back two days later, the person said the couple was not willing to talk to CNN.
When asked about Wu Chung House's connections, Douglas of the UN stressed that each case was different and the age of a particular holding company was not something he could comment on.
"That said, if the holding company was a drug trafficking front for 10 years, it's serious enough and it's about to be investigated," said Douglas.
"If links are found and the activities of organized crime are confirmed, then some serious actions will have to be taken and questions should be asked about how a frontal company could last so openly in Hong Kong."
The Hong Kong authorities refused to comment when they were asked about the case.