"Meth"od to Madness

By: Melissa Painter
By: Melissa Painter

Here's a brief history of methamphetamine:
--First discovered by a German chemist in 1887
--Originally named pheylisopropylamine
--Methamphetamine, more potent and easy to make, was discovered in Japan in 1919
--Amphetamines are available over the counter to treat congestion in 1930's
--Meth distributed to soldiers to help them keep fighting during World War II
--Nazi leader Adolf Hitler revied daily injections of meth from his physician
--Meth becomes commonly available in 1942
--Meth ruled illegal in U.S. Drug Abuse Regulation and Control Act passed in 1970

Methamphetamine is a pseudoephedrine drug that causes the brain to release dopamine resulting in a "high" feeling. The high can last for six to 24 hours. One dose of meth typically costs $50 on the streets. It is illegal to manufacture or ingest methamphetamine.

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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).

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