The history of illegal drug use in America is a history of peaks and valleys, with various drugs gaining ascendency and popularity for various reasons at various times--even though none of them ever go away for good.
It would be foolish to say that methamphetamine use has peaked and is on its way out. However, there is at least some evidence that in the U.S., meth may be following the same recent trend line as cocaine.
SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, regularly gathers figures related to drug use through its Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) and through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of people who had used meth in the past year fluctuated from 1.6 to 1.9 million users. By 2008, however, that number had decreased to 850,000, SAMHSA has concluded. As reasons, the agency cited the 2005 law limiting sales of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, as well as “supply and demand reduction efforts,” presumably a reference to the drug war.
As for hospital visits, “admissions for primary use of methamphetamine increased steadily from 54,000 admissions in 1994 to 154,000 admissions in 2005 and then declined to 137,000 admissions in 2007.” Emergency department visits involving methamphetamine accounted for 8% of total drug-related visits in 2004, compared to 3% of emergency department visits for drug abuse or misuse in 2008.
As always, it is important to remember that most drug-related emergency room visits involve the use or overuse of more than one drug at a time. This changes the picture substantially, in some cases. For example, fully one-third of methamphetamine-related emergency department visits involve “methamphetamine combined with two or more other drugs,” the report discloses. A quarter of the visits also involved the use of alcohol. In 6 out of ten cases, the subjects were treated and released.
One optimistic but puzzling thought the report offers is that some improvements may be attributable to a growing awareness that “treatment providers and researchers have demonstrated that methamphetamine addiction—which once was thought untreatable—can be effectively addressed.”
I am not sure what SAMHSA means when it states that meth addiction was once considered untreatable—I am not aware of any substance addiction which cannot be “effectively addressed,” at least some of the time. And while I am always a bit wary of widespread number gathering, any indication of a decreasing interest in speed is always good news. Furthermore, if there is growing awareness that addiction to meth can be tackled successfully, just like addiction to any other drug, so much the better.
Photo Credit: SAMHSA