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Methamphetamine in the United States

Anti-methamphetamine sign on tank of anhydrous ammonia (Otley, Iowa). Anhydrous ammonia is used in the production of farm fertilizer and is also a critical ingredient in making methamphetamine. In 2005, the state of Iowa gave out thousands of locks in order to prevent criminals from accessing the tanks.[1]

Methamphetamine in the United States is regulated under Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. It is approved for pharmacological use in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and treatment-resistant obesity, but it is primarily used as a recreational drug. 16,000 prescriptions for methamphetamine were filled in 2012. In 2012, approximately 1.2 million Americans reported using methamphetamine in the past year; 440,000 reported using the drug in the past month.[2]

Much of the methamphetamine consumed in the US is manufactured domestically by amateur chemists in meth labs from common household drugs and chemicals such as lye, lithium, and ammonia. Since the passage of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, the Drug Enforcement Administration has reported a sharp decline in domestic meth lab seizures, but drug cartels continue to meet demand by manufacturing meth in Mexico and smuggling it across the border. In 2012, the DEA seized a total of 3,898 kg of methamphetamine[3] and 11,210 meth labs.[4] As of 2015, the Sinaloa Cartel is the most active drug cartel involved in smuggling illicit drugs like methamphetamine into the United States and trafficking them throughout the United States.[5]



During the early 1960s, methamphetamine was sold in the U.S. as an over-the-counter medicine in the form of an inhaler, until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration restricted its sale to physician prescriptions. In announcing the new rules, FDA Commissioner George P. Larrick told reporters that the FDA had received 153 reports of meth abuse in 1964, almost three times the 54 cases from 1963, and only five a year in 1960, 1961 and 1962. [6]

In 1970, methamphetamine was regulated in the Controlled Substances Act, and a public education campaign was mounted against it.[7]

In the 1980s, drug treatment counselors saw increased use of the drug among men who have sex with men. Mexican drug manufacturers began bringing methamphetamine north of the border, and forms of methamphetamine that could be smoked were introduced.[7]

In 1983, laws were passed in the United States prohibiting possession of precursors and equipment for methamphetamine production. In 1986, the U.S. government passed the Federal Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act in an attempt to curb the growing use of designer drugs. Despite this, use of methamphetamine expanded from its initial base in California throughout the rural United States, especially through the Midwest and South.[8] "Government officials in a majority of U.S. counties now report that meth is their counties’ most serious drug problem. Meth use is said to be particularly rampant in the American western states, where the substance is in high demand. States like Montana, South Dakota, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona have all launched extensive efforts – both private and public – to fight the meth menace."[9]

Since 1989, five U.S. federal laws and dozens of state laws have been imposed in an attempt to curb the production of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine can be produced in home laboratories using pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, which, at the time, were the active ingredients in over-the-counter drugs such as Sudafed and Contac. Preventive legal strategies of the past 17 years have steadily increased restrictions to the distribution of pseudoephedrine/ephedrine-containing products.[10] As a result "pharmaceutical companies and retailers such as Target, Walgreens, CVS, Kroger and Winn-Dixie have restricted sales of pseudoephedrine-containing products. Purchasers have been limited to buying small quantities and required to show I.D. to purchase them."[9]

In the 1990s, new ways to synthesize methamphetamine appeared. Some new versions were reported to be four to six times stronger. Greatest use was seen in the Southwest and West United States, but methamphetamine use began and grew in the rural Midwest. Rural locations become ideal for cooking of methamphetamine because of geographic isolation and an available supply of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and anhydrous ammonia.[7]

Attorney General Janet Reno was very outspoken in warning mayors, police chiefs and the Judicial and Executive branches of the Federal government and as a Florida States' Attorney about the dangers of meth (-amphetamines) as early as 1996 and before. She was reported by the Orlando Sentinel as commenting that illegal trafficking in methamphetamine, a dangerous and powerful stimulant, had been spreading rapidly across the United States.[11] She appeared at the 68th session of the United States Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2000 with President Clinton and others to discuss social and law enforcement dangers of the drug nationally, especially in medium-sized and rural communities in order to deal with "the rapidly emerging issue of meth in America, discuss the unique needs of smaller and mid-sized communities to deal with the crisis, and develop prevention, treatment and interdiction strategies for meth which can then be applied to cities of all sizes as the methamphetamine crisis spreads across the nation."[12]

As a result of the U.S. Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CMEA), which was passed as an amendment to the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act,[9] there are restrictions on the amount of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine one may purchase in a specified time period and further requirements that these products must be stored in order to prevent theft.[10] "The CMEA requires record-keeping and identification of all sales and reports to law enforcement of any "suspicious" transactions. Purchasers are limited to "3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine base" per day and 9 grams per month. (Buying more than that is a federal misdemeanor.)"[9] Increasingly strict restrictions have resulted in the reformulation of many over-the-counter drugs, and some, such as Actifed, have been discontinued entirely in the United States.

In 1996, Congress passed the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act, which regulates mail order and chemical companies selling precursor chemicals. For example, people purchasing large quantities of red phosphorus, iodine and hydrochloric gas were required to document that they intended them for legitimate purposes. Law enforcement agents were allowed to track large mail order purchases of pseudoephedrine, another precursor chemical. Chemical supply companies could be prosecuted for selling chemicals to people who make methamphetamine.[7]

By 2000, in the Inland Northwest, and in much of the West United States, methamphetamine was the favored hard drug, surpassing crack and cocaine as the stimulant of choice, as it offered 3.5 times more potency, and a much longer half life. Heroin use was also being surpassed with methamphetamine, which unlike heroin, is not severely cut and reduced in potency with other additive substances. The crystalline form of methamphetamine contained at least 80 percent purity.[7][13]

The Illinois Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act was passed into state law in 2005 and came into effect in 2006.



Methamphetamine is FDA approved for the treatment of ADHD and exogenous obesity. It is dispensed in the USA under the trademark name Desoxyn[14] and manufactured by Ovation Pharmaceuticals.[15] The levorotary form of methamphetamine, levomethamphetamine, is an over-the-counter drug used as in nasal decongestants such as Vicks VapoInhaler.[16]


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is tasked with combating illegal meth production, distribution and use. The seized quantities of meth can give an idea about its changing popularity through the time.

The blue line represents the weight of meth seized (x100g).[17]

The red line represents quantity of meth lab incidents.[18]


Hazardous wasteEdit

Trash left from an illegal meth lab. Common waste includes toluene, ammonia, soda bottles, cat litter, lithium batteries, ether, matches, and pseudoephedrine blister packs.[19]

Meth lab waste is toxic and extremely hazardous, making cleanup a major problem for authorities and property owners. Common wastes include brake cleaner, ammonia, soda bottles, cat litter, lithium batteries, engine starter, matches and pseudoephedrine blister packs.[20]

Operators of meth labs have been prosecuted for environmental crimes.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Gazette Staff (6 Oct 2009). "Anhydrous ammonia tank locks have flaws". Cedar Rapids Gazette.
  2. ^ "Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings" (PDF). US Department of Health & Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  3. ^ "Statistics & Facts (DEA Domestic Drug Seizures)". US Department of Justice.
  4. ^ "Methamphetamine Lab Incidents, 2004-2012". US Department of Justice. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  5. ^ "2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary" (PDF). Drug Enforcement Administration. United States Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration. October 2015. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 10 April 2016. Mexican TCOs pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them. These Mexican poly-drug organizations traffic heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout the United States, using established transportation routes and distribution networks. ... While all of these Mexican TCOs transport wholesale quantities of illicit drugs into the United States, the Sinaloa Cartel appears to be the most active supplier. The Sinaloa Cartel leverages its expansive resources and dominance in Mexico to facilitate the smuggling and transportation of drugs throughout the United States.
  6. ^ "FDA Curbs Easy Inhaler Sales", Chicago Tribune, February 16, 1965, p3
  7. ^ a b c d e "Historical overview of methamphetamine". Vermont Department of Health. Archived from the original on 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2012-01-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  8. ^ "Methamphetamine Use: Lessons Learned" (PDF). National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). Retrieved 2011-01-09.
  9. ^ a b c d Roots, Roger (2011-04-05) Cooking Meth: How Government Manufactured a Drug Epidemic,
  10. ^ a b Cunningham JK, Liu LM (2003). "Impacts of Federal ephedrine and pseudoephedrine regulations on methamphetamine-related hospital admissions". Addiction. 98 (9): 1229–1237. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.2003.00450.x. PMID 12930210.
  11. ^ "Reno Warns That Trafficking In Methamphetamine Rising". Orlando Sentinel. 14 February 1996. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  12. ^ Somers, Ed (24 January 2000). "Mayors Bring New Agenda for America's Cities to Washington, DC for 68th Winter Meeting". Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Mayors. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  13. ^ Information Bulletin: Crystal Methamphetamine | National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC)
  14. ^ "Desoxyn (Methamphetamine Hydrochloride) Drug Information: User Reviews, Side Effects, Drug Interactions and Dosage at". Retrieved 2011-01-09.
  15. ^ "Lundbeck wins Federal Trade Commission case in Federal District Court". Business Wire. Sep 10, 2009. Retrieved Apr 25, 2012.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Methamphetamine Laboratory Identification and Hazards, U.S. Department of Justice,
  20. ^ "Methamphetamine Laboratory Identification and Hazards Fast Facts: Questions and Answers" (PDF). National Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Justice. December 2003. Retrieved 1 September 2011.

External linksEdit