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Methamphetamine Facts, History, and Statistics

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What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug, originally synthesized for therapeutic use, but now found predominantly as a recreational drug of abuse. Though it is a drug that is FDA-approved and prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity under the name Desoxyn, methamphetamine’s illicit use greatly surpasses its intended consumption.

Illicitly manufactured methamphetamine is also available on the street with an appearance resembling translucent white or blue shattered shards of glass. Although similar, if not identical in chemical composition, this form is frequently called crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth), and it goes by street names including:

  • Blade.
  • Crystal.
  • Batu.
  • Ice.
  • Quartz.
  • Glass.

Crystal meth is frequently smoked in a glass pipe. Most forms of meth can be crushed into powder form, which is then snorted, swallowed, or dissolved into solution and injected.

Any route of drug administration can produce a range of desired effects on the user that make tolerance, addiction, and dependence likely.

Meth use can wreak havoc on your mind and body. If you are struggling with an addiction to methamphetamine, don’t wait to find help. A caring American Addiction Centers (AAC) representative can assist you now. Please speak to someone at —they will walk you through finding the help you deserve.

History of Methamphetamine


Compared to other manmade drugs of abuse, methamphetamine is very old. Its chemical progenitor drug—amphetamine—was first produced in the late 1880s in Germany. About 30 years later, Japan began making a more powerful, chemically modified version of the drug called methamphetamine.

During World War II, many soldiers from both sides of the battle lines were using the drug for its stimulant effects in attempts to stay alert and focused during long battles and periods of calm. Notably, Japanese Kamikaze pilots were given methamphetamine prior to their missions.

When the war ended, Japan was inundated with the surplus supply of the drug, which lead to wide-range intravenous meth abuse in the country.

In the post-war U.S., methamphetamine was medically approved to treat depression and, additionally, was prescribed as a weight loss aid.

During the same time, many people used the drug for non-medical reasons such as:

  • Staying up to study for tests.
  • Keeping alert and focused when driving long distances.
  • Improving abilities in feats of strength and athletic completion.

With rates of abuse peaking during the 1960s, the decision was made by the government to restrict and regulate methamphetamine, which made it illegal for most uses in 1971.

Due to continued demand by the public, gangs began to control the manufacturing and circulation of the drug until the 1990s, when drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico and the American southwest began creating larger batches of the drug with higher potencies.

Currently, methamphetamine is sometimes produced in “super labs” that house professional-grade equipment to produce the drug at higher quantities and quality. However, more regularly, methamphetamine is produced in “home labs” or “stove tops,” where a few people will produce small amounts of the substance.

Who’s Abusing Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a commonly viewed as a dangerous substance when used in non-medical situations. Despite the dangers, use remains widespread in the U.S. and even more prevalent overseas in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

As many as half of the people who seek drug treatment in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, and Latvia seek it for addiction to methamphetamine.

The people abusing methamphetamine come from every corner of the world, with higher concentrations of people in the Czech Republic, Australia, and the Philippines. It is interesting to note that Japan—the country that had very high levels of meth abuse following World War II—now has a lower abuse rate. There is not a strong relationship between purity and rates of consumption—with Japan and Switzerland leading in high purity levels.

In the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Administration reports that:

  • Only 16,000 prescriptions for methamphetamine were given in 2012.
  • About 4,000 methamphetamine prescriptions were written in the first quarter of 2013—maintaining the expected rate.
  • The total legal production quota of methamphetamine in the U.S. for the year 2013 was less than 4,000 kilograms (less than 4 metric tons). Compare this with reports of 500 metric tons being produced worldwide and 42 metric tons of crystal meth being consumed in the U.S. alone.

In 2013, about 12.3 million people over 12 years of age reported using methamphetamine at some point during their lifetimes. This number is only a slight decrease from 2012. The same decline is not shown when looking at the past-year and past-month non-medical use, as these numbers saw an increase. Also, note that:

  • In 2013, about 30,000 more people admitted to using methamphetamine non-medically in the past year than in 2012.
  • In 2013, about 15,000 more people admitted to using methamphetamine non-medically in the past month than in 2012.
  • Of the 12.3 million users, about 530,000 of them are thought to be regular users.

Encouragingly—though overall, use of methamphetamine is steady or increasing—use among teenagers is showing a decline based on findings from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They report lifetime use:

  • By 8th graders was 1% in 2014 (down from 1.3% in 2011).
  • By 10th graders was 1.4% in 2014 (down from 2.1% in 2011).
  • By 12th graders was 1.9% in 2014 (down from 2.1% in 2011).

The Methamphetamine Market

As mentioned, the market for methamphetamine is large across various regions of the world. Since legitimate production of the substance is so uncommon, very little of the amount abused comes from diverted legitimate prescriptions; it comes from illicit manufacturing instead.

Methamphetamine has been a billion-dollar industry in the U.S. for a number of years, worth an estimated $13 billion in 2010, down from a high of $23 billion in 2005.

The $13 billion spent annually on methamphetamine equates to a relatively high price per gram. Counterintuitively, the most money was made from the substance when it was cheapest in 2005. Since then, the drug recovered in price, then dropped to $328 per one quarter of a gram in 2010.

Internet Searches on Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine-related spending follows the same trend as the volume of Internet searches for the drug. Consider the follow trends from Internet search queries for crystal meth:

  • Search interest peaked in May of 2005.
  • Search interest declined until July 2009, but has shown consistency since then.
  • Search trends show that CA, NY, and TX have historically shown the most interest in the drug.
  • Currently, Mississippi and Hawaii have overtaken California with increased Internet activity.

Is Methamphetamine Illegal?

Only people who receive one of the 16,000 yearly prescriptions for methamphetamine can use it legally.

The substance is a schedule II controlled substance, which means the Drug Enforcement Administration imposes restrictions, including:

  • Limits on manufacturing.
  • Constraints on how prescriptions can be filled and refilled.
  • Greater consequences for illegal usage, manufacturing and distribution.

Because of its relative ease of production with inexpensive materials, ingredients needed for methamphetamine manufacturing—such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in many cold medicine formulations—were made more difficult to obtain, especially in large quantities. These medicines are no longer available for unmonitored, over-the-counter sale in an attempt to limit their availability for use in methamphetamine production.

Because of the drug’s legal status, authorities are active in tracking and seizing large quantities of meth.

Legal Penalties for Using Methamphetamine

Illicit methamphetamine activity can carry strict legal consequences. Note the following:

  • Methamphetamine is classified by the DEA as a Schedule II drug.
  • Repeated trafficking of a Schedule II drug such as methamphetamine—even fewer than 50 grams—can carry a life sentence.
  • State penalties for possession of Schedule II drugs can include prison sentences of up to 15 years.
  • The effects of methamphetamine can cause impaired driving and lead to DUI charges.

How Dangerous Is Methamphetamine?

Directly and indirectly, methamphetamine is a dangerous substance and carries physical, psychological, and social risks.

Psychological Risks

Meth use can lead to many mental health issues, including:

These effects can be difficult to reverse.

Social and Environmental Risks

The highly addictive nature of methamphetamine can lead to financial and relationship problems, since an addict can become hyperfocused on their next high, neglecting responsibilities like their jobs, children, and housing.

The production of methamphetamine creates large amounts of poisonous and toxic by-products that can pollute food, air, and objects. People who never used methamphetamine can be killed from exposure.

The Drug Enforcement Administration paints a picture of the associated risks with the following statistics:

  • More than 3,200 poisoning exposures have been reported to poison control due to methamphetamine.
  • At its peak in 2005, methamphetamine was responsible for almost 4,500 deaths in the U.S. alone. 

The dangers of methamphetamine are not outweighed by its limited therapeutic benefits. This substance is cause for concern in the U.S. and around the world.

Find Meth Addiction Treatment Programs

If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction, help is available and recovery is possible. Treatment can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a healthier and happier life. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and a variety of treatment types is available. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. To find a program and reclaim your life, please call us free at .

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