The Truth About Methamphetamine

(Forbes) Hyperbole Hurts: The Surprising Truth About Methamphetamine

Although methamphetamine is commonly portrayed as irresistible and inescapable, it does not look that way when you examine data on patterns of use. Of the 12.3 million or so Americans who have tried it, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 1.2 million (9.4 percent) have consumed it in the last year, while less than half a million (3.6 percent) have consumed it in the last month (the standard definition of “current” use). In other words, more than 96 percent of the people who have tried “the most addictive drug known to mankind” are not currently using it even as often as once a month. A 2009 study based on NSDUH data found that 5 percent of nonmedical methamphetamine consumers become “dependent” within two years. Over a lifetime, Hart et al. say, “less than 15 percent” do.

Highlights from the article:

  • Methamphetamine is depicted in the common narrative as the most dangerous and addictive illicit substance of abuse.
  • Media anecdotes of methamphetamine abuse are exaggerated beyond what research indicates about the drug.
  • Hyperbolic slogans and warnings regarding methamphetamine abuse fosters distrust and facilitated disproportionate criminal sentencing.
  • Methamphetamine has fewer users than cocaine or abuse opioids.
  • Methamphetamine use is decreasing.
  • Only ten percent of Americans who have tried methamphetamine have used in the past year.
  • Only fifteen percent of nonmedical methamphetamine users become dependent over an entire lifetime of use.
  • Current methamphetamine users are able to exhibit self control and delay gratification in respect to methamphetamine consumption.
  • Methamphetamine does not elevate blood pressure and heart rate as high as depicted; levels remain below those of rigorous physical exercise.
  • Symptoms associated with methamphetamine abuse — such as “meth mouth” — may be more closely related to poor hygiene, eating and sleeping habits.
  • Animal research involving methamphetamine may be misleading, because it does not mirror the drug use patterns of human beings.
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