This Is What The Meth Epidemic In America Looks Like

Published December 8, 2014
Updated July 14, 2015

Anti-drug advertisements like the Not Even Once campaign and major media coverage of meth abuse would have one believe that America is at war with toothless, murdering drug users. Meth is bad, plain and simple, but new studies suggest that it isn’t the epidemic of media portrayals. Here are the facts about meth use in the United States:

Meth Epidemic Crystal
Amphetamines were first synthesized in 1887 and its cousin, methamphetamine, was discovered in 1919. Source: Wikimedia

Meth Epidemic Red Meth
By 1943, both drugs were used to treat various conditions, including narcolepsy, obesity, alcoholism and behavioral disorders. Source: CBS Local

Meth Epidemic Lab
When Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act in 1971, meth and amphetamines were classified as Schedule II drugs, the highest restriction on prescription drugs. Black market demand increased. Source: ABC News

Meth Epidemic Burns
Meth is most common in the rural parts of the United States because of its cheap ingredients and relatively simple production process. Source: Car Memes

Meth Epidemic Mobile Home
However, when things go badly, meth labs can cause fires and burn those around production. Source: Herald Mail Media

Meth Epidemic Fire
Children are frequently the victims of these fires because their parents are cooking meth in the house. Source: North Escambia

Meth Epidemic Shake Bake
Meth users have developed a new method for cooking meth called “Shake and Bake.” Ingredients are mixed in a bottle and shaken until meth is formed. Source: Nashville Public Radio

Meth Epidemic Burn Photo
The shake and bake method of meth production is also highly volatile. Most burns seen in hospitals now are from use of this method. Source: M Live

Meth Epidemic House
Meth users are frequently uninsured and it costs $230,000 to treat a meth burn victim. Source: KVAL

Meth Epidemic Jael
Jael Strauss, of America’s Next Top Model fame, became the new face of meth use when she appeared on the Dr. Phil Show in 2012 to discuss her addiction. Source: Jezebel

Meth Epidemic Mugshot
These before and after images are often used to show the physical effects of meth use. Its physical side effects are similar to the side effects of Adderall abuse, used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. Source: Mother Jones

Meth Epidemic Sudafed
Some states have instituted prescription only laws on cold medicines that are commonly used in the production of meth, including ones that contain pseudoephedrine. Source: Columbian

Meth Epidemic Map
This map shows reports of meth lab incidents across the United States. The Midwest has the highest incidence. Source: DEA

Meth Epidemic Search
A recent study by Columbia University psychologist Carl Hart states that meth does not seem to be as addictive as previously thought. Only 15% of everyone who has ever tried meth has become addicted. Source: NOLA

Meth Epidemic Investigation
Meth use is actually on the decline in the United States. On average, only 0.2 to 0.4 of the population has used it. However, 1% of 8th graders had tried it in the last year according to a 2012 study. Source: Daily Republic

Meth Epidemic Powder Meth
Meth causes the brain to release dopamine and generate an overall feeling of well-being. This can lead to a change in the way the body releases dopamine when not under the influence and cause thinking problems. Source: LA Times

Meth Epidemic Ad
Increased and prolonged use of meth can causes sleeplessness, paranoia, extreme mood swings and sometimes, hallucinations. Source: Deviant Art

Meth Epidemic Paraphernalia
Meth can be ingested orally, smoked or injected. Meth users frequently share paraphernalia, including needles, which can put a user at risk for blood borne diseases, including HIV. Source: ECM Post Review

Meth Epidemic Bedroom
Many physical and mental impacts of the drug are exacerbated by unsanitary living conditions and poverty, leading to even worse side effects. Source: WFTV

Meth Epidemic Bust
While highlighted frequently on TV shows, more people admitted into rehab programs for alcohol and opiate abuse than meth. In 2011, 41% of admissions were related to alcohol versus 6% related to methamphetamine use. Source: Tristate Homepage

Meth Epidemic Hawaii
Hawaii has instituted programs to keep kids off meth, as the state is more afflicted than many other states in the Union when it comes to the drug. Meth charges constitute 90% of the federal drug charges in the state. Source: Hawaii HE

Meth Epidemic User
California has also had a long struggle with meth addiction. In the 1990s, San Diego was a hub for meth production, though much of the creation and sales has been taken over by Mexican drug cartels. Source: Hive Health Media

Meth Epidemic Cash
The cartels run super labs that can produce 10 pounds of “ice” or crystal meth in 24 hours. Source: Business Insider

Meth Epidemic Blue Meth
Blue meth was popularized by the hit television show Breaking Bad. It featured chemistry teacher Walter White delving into meth production to make money to treat his cancer. Dyed blue meth now pops up from time to time. Source: Oklahoma Legal Group

Meth Epidemic Donut
The show was filmed in Albuquerque and was the impetus for marketing around it. Donuts topped with “blue meth” candy are sold in a local bakery. Source: Meme Droid

Meth Epidemic Lego
Breaking Bad even hit the toy market, inspiring a Lego set that replicates the show’s meth lab. Source: Blogography

Meth Epidemic Graph
This graph displays the amount of meth seized by the United States from 2002 to 2011. While more meth is being intercepted, 80% of is run by the Sinaloa cartel. Source: Business Insider

Meth Epidemic Dog
In 2012, leaked emails from a private U.S. security firm state that the U.S. government permits the Sinaloa cartel to operate in exchange for limiting the violence in Mexico. A Mexican official backed this claim as well. Source: Here And Now

Meth Epidemic
Drug legislation is tougher on meth than on heroin, in spite of the fact that heroin is more frequently abused than meth. Source: Vodka And Pancakes

Meth Epidemic Montana
Drug abuse continues to be an issue of concern in the United States and throughout the world. Education and social outreach, not fear mongering, can spread the message of self-preservation. Source: Wikipedia

Meth Face

For a more thorough explanation, be sure to check out the full-length documentary, American Meth, featured below for your convenience:

Enjoy this look at the Meth epidemic in America? Be sure to check out our other posts on the world's biggest crime organizations and life on the US-Mexico border!

Susan Sims
When she's not fighting crime or cleaning the garbage disposal, you can find Susan writing about travel, science and things that go bump in the night.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Sims, Susan. "This Is What The Meth Epidemic In America Looks Like.", December 8, 2014, Accessed May 18, 2024.