November 30 is National Methamphetamine Awareness Day. The date has been on the calendar since about 2006, when the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) partnered with the federal government as well as local governments and the private sector to raise awareness of methamphetamine abuse. Attorneys General have called on their states to enact “broad-based, grassroots prevention campaigns” that will inform adults and children of the dangers of methamphetamine use. Since 2006, at least 10 state Attorneys General have spearheaded conferences, panel discussions, and drug abuse bill sponsorships.
What Is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that affects the nervous system and brain. It is a white, odorless powder easily dissolved in liquid, and has a bitter taste. It goes by many aliases including meth, chalk, ice, and crystal.
Methamphetamine is an offshoot of its parent drug amphetamine, but differs significantly. It gets into the system more quickly than amphetamine, and is generally a more potent drug. Methamphetamine’s effects on the central nervous system last longer than amphetamine’s effects, which increases its potential for abuse.
Methamphetamine is only available through a non-refillable prescription and used to treat certain medical conditions. Some doctors prescribe it to treat ADD/ADHD, and it is a small component of some weight loss drugs. Prescription doses are lower than those typically abused, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, addicts will “doctor shop,” claim pills were lost or stolen, or employ other tactics to get more methamphetamine. Meth labs are common across the country.
Effects Of Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine produces a general sense of well-being or euphoria. Initially, a methamphetamine addict experiences bursts of energy, decreased fatigue, and increased concentration. Methamphetamine also releases high levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which facilitates motivation and increased motor function. Additionally, methamphetamine use decreases appetite, leading some people to turn to it for weight loss.
The first signs of methamphetamine addiction may include hyperactivity, disturbed sleep patterns or decreased need for sleep, and extreme weight loss. Over time, brain chemistry and function will change, leading to mood swings, memory loss, and aggression. Severe addictions impair the ability to grasp abstract thought. Even after recovery, meth addicts often suffer from mood swings and memory gaps.
Methamphetamine addicts suffer from a range of physical problems including nausea, headaches, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and dental issues. Liver, kidney, and lung damage are common. Meth addiction damages blood vessels in the brain. Long-term methamphetamine addicts are at risk for organ failure, cardiovascular collapse, coma, and death.
How Big Is The Methamphetamine Abuse Problem?
According to the United States Sentencing Commission, 84,173 cases of methamphetamine abuse were reported across the United States in 2012. According to the Drug Enforcement Association’s Drug Threat Assessment of 2015, methamphetamine is one of the most available drugs in the U.S. Thirty-three percent of agencies responding to the assessment reported that methamphetamine was the greatest drug threat in their areas.
Methamphetamine has been linked to at least 38% of violent crimes and at least 33% of property crimes. Chicago, El Paso, Philadelphia, and San Diego were singled out as high-risk cities. According to the DEA’s Drug Threat Assessment, 61% of 2014 methamphetamine seizures occurred in California. Another 23% occurred in Texas, with a total of 84% for those two states alone.
Methamphetamine levels remain especially high in western states such as California and Oregon. According to the Oregon State ME Office, 55% of all drug related deaths in 2012-2013 were associated with methamphetamine. The majority of these deaths were related to traffic accidents, heart attacks, and seizures, although some were overdoses.
Methamphetamine Use, Trafficking, And Sentencing Statistics
Anyone can become a methamphetamine addict. Addiction happens equally among whites, blacks, and Hispanics; about 5% of other races report methamphetamine addiction. During 2012, about 80% of methamphetamine traffickers were male, and the average age for male and female offenders was 35.
More than two thirds of methamphetamine traffickers are U.S. citizens, and 51.4% of traffickers had no prior criminal history. Of these offenders, 98% were sentenced to imprisonment, and their average sentence was 92 months, or about 7 years. On average, offenders possessed between 3.3 and 11 pounds of methamphetamine.
During 2012, 23.5% of methamphetamine users and traffickers were minors or had a non-supervisory role in trafficking or methamphetamine-induced crimes. Therefore, their sentences were reduced. Another 37.9% of methamphetamine offenders received reduced sentences because they met safety valve guidelines in their states.