"Meth"od to Madness: Cycle of Addiction

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Doctor Melissa Walton-Shirley says you can become addicted to methamphetamine after just one dose.

Meth causes a release of dopamine in the brain, resulting in a feeling of euphoria.

After a user's initial experience with the drug, Dr. Walton-Shirley says he or she typically develops a tolerance to its affects.

This begins the cycle of addiction. The meth user constantly craves the feeling of euphoria and consistently reuses the drug.

This cycle results in serious economic, social and physiological problems for the user.

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Methamphetamine Use

Overall usage: The 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse estimated that 9.4 million Americans tried methamphetamine in their lifetime.

This figure shows a marked increase from the 1994 estimate of 3.8 million. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), methamphetamine-related emergency department episodes more than tripled between 1991 and 1994, rising from roughly 4,900 to 17,700.

The number of methamphetamine-related episodes more than doubled in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.

Likewise, treatment providers in California, Oregon, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina report significant increases in the number of clients entering treatment with methamphetamine problems.

Use among youth: The 1999 Monitoring the Future survey asked twelfth graders about the use of crystal methamphetamine and found that use has been rising since 1990, peaking in 1998 before leveling off in 1999.

Currently, 4.8 percent of high school seniors used the drug in their lifetime (compared to 2.7 percent in 1990), and 1.9 percent used the drug within the past year (compared to 1.3 percent in 1990).

In areas such as the Midwest, where meth is readily available, meth abuse among teens is much more common.


Because meth production and trafficking for a period of time were concentrated primarily in the West and Southwest United States, particularly California, Arizona, Utah, and Texas, availability and abuse were high in those areas.

However, the expansion of Mexico-based meth traffickers and the growth of independent U.S.-based laboratories has dramatically increased the availability and abuse of meth in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and some portions of the Southeast, particularly Georgia, Tennessee, and the surrounding states.


Historically, suppliers of methamphetamine in the United States were outlaw motorcycle gangs and other independent trafficking groups.

Although motorcycle gangs continue to produce meth and control a share of the market, Mexico-based trafficking groups entered the illicit methamphetamine market in 1995 and now dominate the trade.

With their ability to obtain wholesale quantities of precursor chemicals on the international market, their access to already established smuggling and distribution networks, and their control over laboratories capable of large-scale production and distribution of methamphetamine, these criminal groups from Mexico now dominate wholesale meth trafficking in the United States.

Source: http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/concern/meth.htm (Drug Enforcement Administration).