How Many People Are Chronic Methamphetamine Users?
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug of abuse that produces substantially more profound effects on normal brain chemistry than cocaine. Repeated, long-term (i.e., chronic) users of this drug have very strong chances of developing diagnosable issues with drug abuse and drug addiction. In March 2014, researchers from the RAND Corporation presented the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy with a detailed report that, among other things, estimates the number of Americans affected by chronic methamphetamine use from 2000 to 2010. This report also breaks down chronic users of the drug into three levels of habitual intake.
What Constitutes A Meth User?
Each year, federal researchers from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration use a project called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to estimate the overall prevalence of methamphetamine use among American teenagers and adults. Figures released in late 2013 for the 2012 version of this survey indicate that 0.2 percent of the total population age 12 or older used the drug in an average or representative month. In raw numbers, this equates to about 440,000 people. In addition, approximately 0.4 percent of the teen and adult population used methamphetamine at some point during the entire survey year. This percentage equates to roughly 1.2 million people. Another project funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called Monitoring the Future, tracks methamphetamine use among all 8th, 10th and 12th graders. All told, about 1 percent of students enrolled in these three grades used the drug at least one time in 2012.
The Levels Of Chronic Meth Use
All chronic drug users repeatedly take a given substance over time. However, the actual frequency of intake between different chronic users can vary quite substantially. For instance, “low level” chronic users may regularly take a drug about four to 10 days a month. “Moderate- to high-level” chronic users may regularly take a drug about 11 to 20 days a month. The most extreme level of chronic use involves drug intake on a minimum of 21 days a month. Chronic drug use and the onset of diagnosable abuse and addiction typically go hand in hand. Compared to other habitual users, heavy chronic users commonly experience particularly intense forms of these problems. In the U.S., diagnosable cases of methamphetamine abuse and addiction fall under the heading of a larger condition called stimulant use disorder, which also encompasses abuse and addiction associated with the use of cocaine, amphetamine and other stimulant substances.
How Many Chronic Methamphetamine Users Are There?
In the report presented to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the research team from the RAND Corporation used data gathered from several well-regarded sources to calculate how many people in the U.S. qualified as chronic methamphetamine users for each year between 2000 and 2010. Among others, these sources included that National Survey on Drug Use and Health and a periodically conducted project called the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, which tracked drug use rates in people who get arrested or otherwise come under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. In 2010, the most likely total number of chronic methamphetamine was about 1.6 million. The actual number of affected individuals may have been as low as 700,000 or as high as 2.7 million. For a number of reasons (including the relatively high rate of drug use among incarcerated individuals), the figures from the RAND report are substantially higher than the estimates produced by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Roughly 600,000 of the people classified as chronic methamphetamine users in 2010 took the drug on four to 10 separate days per month. A slightly smaller number of chronic users (500,000) took the drug on 11 to 20 separate days per month. In addition, about 500,000 chronic methamphetamine users took the drug on 21 or more separate days per month.
The authors of the RAND Corporation report note that it’s quite difficult to accurately determine how many people in the U.S. have been involved in chronic methamphetamine use since the beginning of the 2000s. These difficulties stem largely from changes in the programs used to gather information on methamphetamine use. For example, methods employed by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to calculate this use were changed significantly in 2007. In addition, there is only incomplete information available from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (which also completely lost its federal funding in 2012).
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