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Methamphetamine: Implications for the Dental Team

Course Number: 332

User Demographics

Methamphetamine users come from many populations. Adolescents and college students use meth for the powerful high, ability to stay awake to study and to have a good time. Reported users wishing to ‘do it all’ – students, workers, mothers – turn to the drug for its hyperactivity effect. Certified public accountants during tax season and medical residents on call have used meth. Truck drivers use it to stay awake during long drives. People who are bored, angry or depressed turn to meth in the hopes it will make them feel better. People who want to be thin use meth for the appetite suppression effect. Basically anyone can be a meth user. According to data from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 12 million Americans (4.7% of the population) age 12 and older have tried methamphetamine at least once. NSDUH also reports that approximately 1.2 million people used methamphetamine in the past year (2011) and 444,000 reported using methamphetamine in the past month.58 The 2014 NSDUH reports that 183,000 Americans age 12 and older used meth for the first time. That number is equal to or higher than past year initiate numbers since 2007.59 The 2009 NSDUH report indicated that approximately 70% of meth users are getting meth from friends or family.56 The typical meth user is Caucasian and between the ages of 19 and 30. Meth use is increasing among college students and young professionals who frequent nightclubs. Some meth distributors are targeting Indigenous People. With a disposable income and a history of alcohol abuse, there is an increase in meth problems on reservations. Women are also at risk because of a desire to lose weight, increase confidence, have more energy for multiple responsibilities or because their partner uses meth.57

By the 1980s, Mexican drug cartels were manufacturing meth for distribution in Hawaii and Southern California. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2008 the Mexican government placed strict regulations on medications containing pseudoephedrine. All distribution of products containing pseudoephedrine in Mexico now requires a written prescription. It is the hope of the Mexican government that this measure will limit the amount of meth that is produced. The use of methamphetamine continues to spread across the Western states, the Midwest and the South. The Northeastern states have experienced increased use of meth as a club drug in club subcultures.20 According to the 2014 NDTA, West Coast states and Hawaii have the highest rate of meth use followed by the Central and Southwest states. The 2017 NSDUH reports the highest state prevalence rates include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota.61 Worldwide, the market for meth is increasing in East and Southeast Asia and Oceania.65

Regions of the U.S. with the least meth use are Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Great Lakes.57,67 The 2014 Drug Enforcement Agency statistics show that Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee have the highest meth seizure rates and Nevada, Maryland Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont have the lowest meth seizure rates. The 2011 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report estimates annual prevalence of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), including methamphetamine, as the second most widely used illicit drug in the world, following cannabis. The 2018 UNODC report states that due to the increasing availability of meth between 2013 and 2016, meth was reported to be the second greatest drug threat in the US, after heroin.65 ATS were used by 14-56 million people worldwide in 2009.64 Both the 2016 and 2017 NSDUH, the most recent reports, indicate methamphetamine remains a drug of concern.60,61