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By Tom Tjornehoj
To the chagrin of all levels of law enforcement – from federal to local – methamphetamine use has been on the rise, and California is on the front lines of the epidemic.
Methamphetamine use increased nationally by 61 percent for current users age 12 and older and 71 percent for new users between 2010 and 2014. Today, meth has a big presence in the Pacific and Southwest regions of the US — both of which include parts of California — with 78 percent of law enforcement agencies reporting high availability, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).1 In raw numbers, approximately 667,000 people age 12 or older report using methamphetamines in the past month, with the majority falling into the 26 and older age bracket.2
Care Facilities Report a Continual Increase in Meth and Other Psychostimulant Cases
The continuing rise of meth is also being felt in hospitals and other care facilities. Compared to 20 years earlier, significantly more meth-positive patients have been showing up in emergency rooms — an increase that falls in line with state, national and worldwide trends.3 The number of meth-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities grew to 130,033 in 2013. That’s up more than a 10 percent from just the prior year.1
When it comes to overdose deaths, meth is harder to track than cocaine and heroin because it’s grouped into the psychostimulant category with a variety of other chemicals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, approximately 85-90 percent of psychostimulant overdose deaths from 2010 to 2014 mentioned methamphetamine in the death certificate. In 2014, nearly 4,300 Americans died from psychostimulant drug poisoning, representing a 229 percent increase since 2004.1
Meth Still Pours Into the US from Mexico Following Crackdown on US Production
Meth has traditionally been considered a domestic product. But while it’s still being manufactured in small-scale labs in the US, tighter regulations on chemicals used to make the drug have pushed mass production across the border.1,4
Now, the meth business belongs to Mexican drug cartels, and California has become a popular gateway for the drug to make its way into the US. Between 2009 and 2014, meth seizures quadrupled along the Mexico-California border and at San Diego ports of entry, according to a recent VICE article.4 During that same time, methamphetamine increased from 7.75 percent to 15.63 percent of all exhibits reported to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System.1
The Price of Meth Continues to Drop as Product Purity Rises
According to the DEA’s 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment, as meth has gotten purer, it’s also gotten cheaper to buy. Between January 2007 and March 2015, the DEA saw the purity of meth increase nearly 64 percent — with purity levels averaging above 90 percent — while the price per pure gram of meth dropped approximately 57 percent.1
“Back in 2008, undercover agents were spending $8,000-10,000 a pound to buy it, but today it costs less than $3,500 a pound,” Gary Hill, a DEA assistant special agent, tells VICE. “We believe the cartels responsible are able to produce it in such large qualities that their overhead cost has diminished.”4
The meth produced in Mexico is particularly pure and potent, according to the DEA.1
The Search for Solutions to the Meth Crisis Continues
Meth addiction doesn’t come with any easy answers. But states are taking action to address the problem.
Nebraska – a US heartland state in the Midwest – says meth addiction affects the entire state, and child-removal numbers show it’s more prevalent in rural areas than urban cities.5 Some of the solutions Nebraska has implemented in response to the crisis, according to a recent editorial in the Omaha World-Herald, include:
- Drug courts that put meth users into treatment instead of prison
- Law enforcement that goes after suppliers and dealers so less meth makes it to the streets
- Substance abuse treatment programs that help individuals overcome their addiction to meth5
A focus on treatment is especially important for meth because the detox process is slow, relapses are common and it can wreak havoc on the body. Physical effects may include abnormal heartbeat and repeated seizures, along with the potential for liver, kidney or heart failure.5
If you or someone you love is addicted to meth, we can help. At Michael’s House, you’ll find caring staff and comprehensive treatment. Our integrated programs take all contributing factors and facets of care into consideration, including any co-occurring mental health issues. Call our 24/7 toll-free line anytime, day or night, to speak with an admissions coordinator about your treatment options.
1 Rosenberg, Chuck. “2016 National Drug Threat Assessment: Summary.” Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Justice, November 2016.
2 Ahrnsbrak, Rebecca, et al. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, September 2017.
3 Richards, John R., et al. “Methamphetamine Use and Emergency Department Utilization: 20 Years Later.” Journal of Addiction, 2017.
4 Hoffman, Meredith. “Meth Is Flooding California – and You Can Blame Mexican Cartels.” Vice News, January 6, 2015.
5 World-Herald Editorial. “Nebraska’s Meth Problems Continue to Vex Us.” Omaha World-Herald, October 11, 2017.