Methamphetamine: Usage trends

Last modified: Monday, 1. June 2009 - 6:19 am

Until approximately 10-15 years ago, illegal methamphetamine use was predominately a problem in California and surrounding western states. Outlaw motorcycle gangs significantly controlled methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution. However, drug lords from Mexico began to become involved. Through their nationwide distribution and transportation networks of other illegal drugs, the Mexican drug traffickers were easily able to expand methamphetamine to all corners of the United States.
There are a variety of reasons that people use and abuse methamphetamine. Various studies report that about 10% of methamphetamine users were first introduced to the drug by family members. Most users state that they began using the drug as an experiment, to get more energy, and to get high. Around half of methamphetamine users state they use the drug either by smoking it or snorting it, with people under the age of 18 preferring to smoke it. People who use other drugs such as cocaine generally (64% of the time) state a preference for methamphetamine, due to its long-lasting nature and powerful high.
A significant percentage of methamphetamine users have had legal trouble. From multiple studies, a full 40% of adult methamphetamine users have been charged with a drug or alcohol violation, while 25% have been booked for theft and 16% have been arrested for violent behavior. About one-third of methamphetamine users report to have been engaged in illegal drug activity besides use, with selling drugs the most common activity. Forty percent of juveniles who are methamphetmine users reported also being involved in drug dealing. Most methamphetamine users who are also dealers report they became dealers to support their own drug habit.
Scope and severity
Methamphetamine is a dangerous, highly addictive drug that can be manufactured with commonly available, inexpensive chemicals. With a street price of $3,000 per pound (per half kilogram), making and selling methamphetamine can be a lucrative, albeit deadly, industry. While methamphetamine abuse has been a problem in California for decades, it was not the 1990s that it began to be a nationwide problem.
There have been numerous studies over the past few years trying to gauge the extent of methamphetamine use. According to the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 4.7 million people had tried methamphetamine at some point in their lives. That same survey, done again in the year 2000, showed that the number of methamphetamine users had grown to 8.8 million.
The Drug Abuse Warning Network, which collects information on drug-related episodes from the nation’s emergency rooms, showed that methamphetamine-related visits to emergency rooms more than tripled between 1991 and 1994, rising from 4,900 to more than 17,000. That number stayed the same until the late 1990s, and actually decreased somewhat (to 13,500) by 2000.
The Treatment Episode Data Set collects usage data from drug treatment centers around the country. Between 1993 and 1999, it was reported that methamphetamine addicts made up about 5% of the 1.6 million admissions to publicly funded substance abuse treatment center facilities. The survey also showed that in 1993, most methamphetmaine users were concentrated in three Western states — California, Oregon, and Nevada. By 1996, the treatment rate for methamphetamine abuse had increased 79%. By 1999, high methamphetamine admission rates to treatment centers were seen in most states west of the Mississippi River.
Age, ethnic, and gender trends
Methamphetamine use and abuse was traditionally believed to be one of white, blue-collar males. However, that has rapidly shifted in the past decade, with methamphetamine being used by a very diverse population.
A study of the ethnicity of methamphetamine users done between 1996 and 1997 shows that they are multicultural. In Los Angles, 30% of users were white, 5% were Hispanic, and only 2% were black. However, that same survey showed that in Portland, Oregon, whites made up 94% of all methamphetamine users; 54% of these were male, while 46% were female. In Los Angles, 88% of the methamphetamine users were male, with only 12% being female.
The 1999 Monitoring the Future study examined drug use among high-school students. This study found that the use of methamphetamines has been steadily increasing since 1990 in this age group. Almost 5% of high school seniors stated to being methamphetamine users, up from 2.7% in 1990. In high-use methamphetamine areas such as the Midwest, the use of methamphetamine among teenagers is even higher. A survey done in 1998 in Marshall County, Iowa, showed that almost one third of the 1,600 students in the county high school had tried methamphetamine.

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