Sharp Rise in Americans Treated for Meth Abuse
More People Now Seek Treatment for Abuse of Methamphetamines and Prescription Painkillers
WebMD News Archive
July 18, 2005 -- The number of Americans admitted to hospitals and clinics
for treatment of methamphetamine and prescription painkiller addictions rose
sharply in 2003, federal health officials said Monday.
Nearly 117,000 Americans entered hospitals and clinics for treatment of
methamphetamine addiction in 2003, a 10% rise from the year before. Treatments
for abuse of prescription narcotics like OxyContin rose 12% to more than 48,000
in 2003, the latest year with available data, according to U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS).
Several states, including Arkansas, California, and Utah, saw their rates
for admission for abuse of methamphetamine jump more than 20%, according to the
The data come from the department's Treatment Episode Data Set, which culls
state reports of drug treatments and aggregates them for national figures.
"The alarming growth of methamphetamine use and, in part, its
popularity, can be explained by the drug's wide availability, ease of
production, low cost, and its highly addictive nature," says Charles Curie,
director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an
agency within HHS. Curie made the comments in a news release from the
More than 5% of the U.S. population over 12 years of age has tried
methamphetamine, according to 2003 federal drug surveys. Nearly 607,000 claim
to have used the drug in the last month.
Officials have also seen a steep rise in prescription narcotics abuse.
Nearly 3 million people over 12, including 4.5% of high school seniors, claimed
to have used OxyContin without a doctor's order in 2003.
Methamphetamine Growth in Rural Areas
Methamphetamine has had the most impact in rural areas, where illegal
manufacturers can easily procure the fertilizer and other chemicals needed to
make it in illicit labs. Farming areas also afford manufacturers the chance to
concoct methamphetamine with little fear of detection because of chemical odors
or lab waste.
A recent survey of counties pegged methamphetamine as the most serious drug
problem faced by local officials. Fifty-eight percent of local law enforcement
agencies in a National Association of Counties (NACo) survey released in early
July called methamphetamine their most serious drug problem. The organization
complained at the time that Bush administration drug officials were not doing
enough to help address methamphetamine in local jurisdictions.
Methamphetamine is rapidly addictive and can cause severe personality shifts
in users. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it can
increase wakefulness and physical activity and decrease appetite. Chronic,
long-term use can lead to psychotic behavior, hallucinations, and stroke.
NACo officials complained earlier this month of high rates of child neglect
among parents using the drug. People who make the drug are also at risk from
lab explosions and fires in makeshift labs.
Brian Cook, DO, a professor of psychiatry and addiction specialist at the
University of Iowa, tells WebMD that treatment for methamphetamine use has
spiked in the area.
"A decade ago it was a trickle, and now it's a very common cause for
admission," he says. Alcohol used to be the primary cause for admission,
but now it's slipped, he says.