Report Examines Methamphetamine Users Seeking Treatment 1997-2007

A highly addictive stimulant, methamphetamine is known to cause a variety of health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, psychotic symptoms, memory loss, violent behavior and mood disturbances. Even with such an impact, people continue to use and abuse the substance in an effort to achieve a desired high.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicates that the prevalence of past year methamphetamine use decreased from 2006 to 2007 for all age groups. At the same time, in 2007, 1.3 million individuals aged 12 or older had used the drug in the past year.

A recent report examined the trends in substance abuse treatment admissions for abuse of methamphetamine from 1997 to 2007. This report relies on the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), which collects data on the primary substance of abuse at the time of admission to substance abuse treatment.

From 1997 to 2000, it appears the percentage of admissions reporting any abuse of methamphetamine remained stable; yet this percentage began to increase in 2001 and found its peak in 2005 at 13 percent. A slight decline to 12 percent was shown in 2006 and 2007.

Individuals aged 40 and older were more than twice as likely in 2007 to be admitted for primary methamphetamine abuse. Admissions for individuals in this age bracket were 10 percent in 1997. At the same time, the percentage of admissions younger than 20 decreased from 12 percent in 1997 to 6 percent in 2007.

Primary methamphetamine abuse was losing popularity among non-Hispanic Whites as these admissions declined from 81 percent in 1997 to 65 percent in 2007. Over the same time period, Hispanic admissions more than doubled from 9 percent to 21 percent.

Route of administration was also studied and this report found that primary methamphetamine admissions who reported smoking as the usual route increased each year and more than doubled over the study period from 27 percent to 67 percent. Injection users declined since 1997, although one in five still preferred this route in 2007.

Those admitted to treatment primarily for methamphetamine were generally referred by the criminal justice system. This increased from 38 percent in 1997 to 56 percent in 2007. During the same time period, self referrals decreased from 32 percent to 21 percent.

Most of those admitted for methamphetamine abuse in 1997 and 2007 also had problems with other substances. The percentage of these admissions reporting no other substances of abuse, however, increased from one in four in 1997 to more than one in three in 2007.

In both study years, alcohol and marijuana were the most commonly reported secondary or tertiary substances of abuse among primary methamphetamine admissions. In 2007, 31 percent also reported secondary or tertiary abuse of alcohol, and 37 percent reported secondary or tertiary abuse of marijuana.

Methamphetamine continues to be a growing problem and it appears to be even heavier among the 40 and older group. It is possible that the primary user group is simply aging or there could be other driving factors. Further examination into this phenomenon could reveal additional motivations.