What is the scope of methamphetamine abuse in the United States?

NIDA's Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG), an early warning network of researchers that provides information about the nature and patterns of drug abuse in 21 major areas of the U.S., reported in January 2006 that methamphetamine continues to be a problem in the West, with indicators persisting at high levels in Honolulu, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles; and that it continues to spread to other areas of the country, including both rural and urban sections of the South and Midwest. In fact, methamphetamine was reported to be the fastest growing problem in metropolitan Atlanta.

US Map showing the increase in methamphetamine/amphetamine admission rates moving from the West Coast and some mountain states in 1992, to covering most of the US, except for the East Coast States and around the Great Lakes. Primary Methamphetamine/Amphetamine Admission Rates per 100,000 Population Aged 12 and Over

According to the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 10.4 million people age 12 or older (4.3 percent of the population) have tried methamphetamine at some time in their lives. Approximately 1.3 million reported past-year methamphetamine use, and 512,000 reported current (past-month) use. Moreover, the 2005 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of student drug use and attitudes reported 4.5 percent of high school seniors had used methamphetamine within their lifetimes, while 8th-graders and 10th-graders reported lifetime use at 3.1 and 4.1 percent, respectively. However, neither of these surveys has documented an overall increase in the abuse of methamphetamine over the past few years. In fact, both surveys showed recent declines in methamphetamine abuse among the Nation's youth.

In contrast, evidence from emergency departments and treatment programs attest to the growing impact of methamphetamine abuse in the country. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which collects information on drug-related episodes from hospital emergency departments (EDs) throughout the Nation, has reported a greater than 50 percent increase in the number of ED visits related to methamphetamine abuse between 1995 and 2002, reaching approximately 73,000 ED visits, or 4 percent of all drug-related visits in 2004.

Treatment admissions for methamphetamine abuse have also increased substantially. In 1992, there were approximately 21,000 treatment admissions in which methamphetamine/amphetamine was identified as the primary drug of abuse, representing more than 1 percent of all treatment admissions during the year. By 2004, the number of methamphetamine treatment admissions increased to greater than 150,000, representing 8 percent of all admissions.

Moreover, this increased involvement of methamphetamine in drug treatment admissions has also been spreading across the country. In 1992, only 5 states reported high rates of treatment admissions (i.e., >24 per 100,000 population) for primary methamphetamine/amphetamine problems; by 2002, this number increased to 21, more than a third of the states.

This page was last updated September 2006