Methamphetamine, also called meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Meth takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder or crystals. Meth causes increased talkativeness and activity, decreased appetite, and a sense of euphoria. It can also cause faster breathing, rapid and irregular heartbeat, and increased blood pressure and body temperature. Due to methamphetamine’s potency can last longer and have more harmful effects on the central nervous system.
The History of Meth
Methamphetamine was developed in the early 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was originally used in decongestants and bronchial inhalers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified it as a Schedule II stimulant, making it only available through a non-refillable prescription. It can be prescribed to help manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as a short-term weight loss aid. Because of the drug’s high potential for misuse, it is rarely prescribed for these treatments and is prescribed in very low doses.
The long-term effects of methamphetamine include: increasing one’s risk of HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases; extreme weight loss; addiction; severe dental problems ("meth mouth"); anxiety; changes in brain structure and function; memory loss; sleeping problems; paranoia; violent behavior; and hallucinations.
Meth Use in the United States
According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 1.6 million people reported using meth in the past year. The National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure system compiled by the Missouri State Highway Patrol identifies how many meth-related seizures occurred in every state in 2018. A “seizure” incident includes discovery meth labs, chemical equipment and glassware, and dumpsites. The ten states with the most meth-related seizures are:
- Michigan (220)
- New York (220)
- Indiana (144)
- Illinois (129)
- North Carolina (127)
- California (114)
- Pennsylvania (105)
- Tennessee (102)
- Ohio (60)
- Florida (59)
Michigan had a total of 220 seizures in 2018. Michigan has the second-highest overall drug use of any state in the U.S. State authorities claim that Kalamazoo is the “epicenter” of meth in Michigan. New York also had 220 seizures, tying the state with Michigan. Opioids are a much larger problem in New York and usually take the headlines over methamphetamine. New York City and its many nightclubs are typically the targets of meth suppliers.
With a total of 144 incidents, Indiana has the third-highest meth prevalence. Evansville was once described as the meth capital of the world, although the number of incidents has greatly decreased. The top counties in Indiana with meth lab seizures were Delaware, Vigo, Knox, Bartholomew, and Jackson. Meth seizures in Illinois have increased from 72.9kg in 2017 to 289.9kg in 2018, according to the DEA. That’s almost four times the amount of meth. A majority of the meth in Illinois is trafficked through by Mexican drug cartels.
North Carolina had 127 meth incidents in 2018. The DEA office in Greensboro reported having a 2,000% increase in meth seizures since the fiscal year 2017. It is expected that drug traffickers are sending bulk shipments of meth straight to North Carolina from Mexico.
California has the sixth-highest number of meth seizure incidents of any state. Meth overdoses killed 232 people in 2017 in the San Joaquin Valley. The Bakersfield Police Department reported that, aside from marijuana, meth made up about 75% of all drugs seized in the city in 2018.
Pennsylvania’s meth prevalence is rising. In 2017, Philadelphia saw a 112% increase in meth-related overdoses from 2016. There were 72 overdoses in Philadelphia in 2017. A majority of meth overdoses in Philadelphia also involved an opioid, usually fentanyl.
Although Tennessee has the eighth-highest number of meth seizure incidents, the overall number of seizures has decreased by 80% since 2010. Most of Tennessee’s meth is brought in from Mexico in large bulk quantities. A major DEA meth operation in Tennessee resulted in seizing 317 pounds of methamphetamine. Ohio, which is known for its opioid crisis, has reported a decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions while methamphetamine remains widely available across the state. The availability of meth has increased in almost all parts of the state.
Florida reported 59 meth seizure incidents in 2018, the tenth-highest in the U.S. In 2017, there were 868 meth-related deaths in Florida with Calhoun Country being the hardest hit in the state. The number of meth-related deaths in Florida has increased dramatically over the past two decades.