The misuse of methamphetamine—a potent and highly addictive stimulant—remains an extremely serious problem in the United States. In some areas of the country, it poses an even greater threat than opioids, and it is the drug that most contributes to violent crime.36 According to data from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 16.8 million people aged 12 or older (6.0% of the population) used methamphetamine at least once during their lifetime (2021 DT 1.1). In 2021, an estimated 2.5 million people reported using methamphetamine in the past 12 months (2021 DT 1.42A),*2 and it remains one of the most commonly misused stimulant drugs in the world.37
The consequences of methamphetamine misuse are terrible for the individual—psychologically, medically, and socially. Using the drug can cause memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior, damage to the cardiovascular system, malnutrition, and severe dental problems. Methamphetamine misuse has also been shown to contribute to increased transmission of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
Beyond its devastating effects on individual health, methamphetamine misuse threatens whole communities, causing new waves of crime, unemployment, child neglect or abuse, and other social ills. A 2009 report from the RAND Corporation noted that methamphetamine misuse cost the nation approximately $23.4 billion in 2005.1
But the good news is that methamphetamine misuse can be prevented and addiction to the drug can be treated with behavioral therapies. Research also continues toward development of new pharmacological and other treatments for methamphetamine use, including medications, vaccines, and noninvasive stimulation of the brain using magnetic fields. People can and do recover from methamphetamine addiction if they have ready access to effective treatments that address the multitude of medical and personal problems resulting from their long-term use of the drug.
*The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on data collection for the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). For more information, please see the 2021 NSDUH Frequently Asked Questions from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.