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The National Meth Epidemic

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If you are unaware of the meth epidemic in the United States, you must have worked hard to avoid the conversation. Leading newspapers, magazines, talking heads, televised news organizations, and governmental officials, among others, all have addressed the scourge that is meth.

The Media

In 2006, the United States Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, called meth the most dangerous drug in America and President George W. Bush proclaimed November 30 National Methamphetamine Awareness Day. And, for the last decade, the concept of meth as the grittiest, most addictive drug has continued.

Most should remember the Faces of Meth campaign started by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, a state that has really grappled with a meth problem. And, more recently, a former America’s Next Top Model participant appeared on the Dr. Phil Show to discuss her past and present meth addiction, making the young woman a new face of meth.

If you are currently using meth and are part of the epidemic, it is important for your health and the quality of your life that you seek out and make a commitment to treatment.

Side Effects of the War on Meth

One of the dangerous side effects of the “war” on meth is the stigmatization of users. That isn’t to say that users should be rewarded or encouraged. However, harsher legal consequences and a poor overall image of users isn’t the most effective way to deal with the problem.

These side effects may not seem like a big deal to most, but if you are a meth user or love someone who is, you know that the end result you want is treatment. Stigmatization and harsher prison sentences—which are the both the outcome of the response to the meth epidemic—might make isolation and jail time the inescapable result for many using methamphetamine.

In 1999, Then Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating said of methamphetamine: “It’s a white trash drug. Methamphetamines largely are consumed by the lower socio-economic element of white people and I think we need to shame it. Just like crack cocaine was a black trash drug and is a black trash drug” The danger of this kind of shaming is that, if meth is indeed limited to the lower socio-economic classes (and it’s not), then users have limited means.

Limited means undermine both attempts to seek treatment (lack of funds to pay for it, lack of a traditional support system, increased stressors due to living circumstances) and to deal adequately with the legal consequences of using (lack of fund to procure a better lawyer, lack of funds for bail, lack of fund for monetary judgements). Further, poor people disproportionally occupy jails.


The war on meth has increased awareness of the dangers of meth use and, as a result, there has been a decrease in the number of users. For example, the following numbers represent the percentage of lifetime users in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade:

  • 1999: 4.5 percent
  • 2000: 4.2 percent
  • 2001: 4.4 percent
  • 2002: 3.5 percent
  • 2003: 3.9 percent
  • 2004: 2.5 percent
  • 2005: 3.1 percent
  • 2006: 2.7 percent
  • 2007: 1.8 percent
  • 2008: 2.3 percent
  • 2009: 1.6 percent
  • 2010: 1.8 percent
  • 2011: 1.3 percent
  • 2012: 1.3 percent
  • 2013: 1.4 percent
  • 2014: 1.0 percent
  • 2015: .8 percent

Although there are tiny fluctuations in use, overall the trend is a decreasing one.

An important thing to remember is that doctors routinely prescribe clinical versions of methamphetamine and related drugs to patients dealing with narcolepsy, obesity, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). That doesn’t make illicit use in the absence of a medical treatment plan acceptable, but it does mean that users of the drug aren’t automatically the worst that society has to offer.

If you have delayed seeking treatment because you don’t have the means to do so or you are embarrassed about your connection to meth, you need to understand that you aren’t alone and you don’t need to be crippled by shame. Drug abuse is the result of a brain disorder and it isn’t something to try to hide.

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