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Methamphetamine Use Cost the U.S. Estimated $23 Billion In 2005


The RAND Corporation has released a study that is the first effort to construct a comprehensive national assessment of the costs of the methamphetamine problem in the United States. RAND is a nonprofit research organization.

In 2005, the economic cost of methamphetamine use in the United States reached $23.4 billion. This includes the burden of addiction, premature death, drug treatment and many other aspects of the drug.

The study's finding show that the economic burden of methamphetamine abuse is substantial. Many of the primary issues that account for the burden of methamphetamine use are similar to those identified in economic assessments of other illicit drugs.

The study was sponsored by the Meth Project Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to reducing first-time methamphetamine use. Additional support was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study was commissioned to provide decision makers with the best possible estimate of the financial burden that methamphetamine use places on the American public. It provides a conservative estimate of the total cost of meth, and reinforces the need to invest in serious prevention programs that work.

The costs of methamphetamine use is difficult to estimate. The researchers therefore created a range of estimates. The lowest estimate for the cost of methamphetamine use in 2005 was $16.2 billion, while $48.3 billion was the highest estimate. Researchers' best estimate of the overall economic burden of methamphetamine use is $23.4 billion.

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The RAND analysis found that nearly two-thirds of the economic costs caused by methamphetamine use resulted from the burden of addiction and an estimated 900 premature deaths among users in 2005. The burden of addiction was measured by quantifying the impact of the lower quality of life experienced by those addicted to the drug.

The second largest category of economic costs included crime and criminal justice expenses. These costs include the burden of arresting and incarcerating drug offenders, as well as the costs of additional non-drug crimes caused by methamphetamine use, such as thefts committed to support a drug habit.

Other costs that significantly contribute include lost productivity, the expense of removing children from their parents' homes because of methamphetamine use and spending for drug treatment.

One new category of cost captured in the analysis is the expense associated with the production. Producing methamphetamine requires toxic chemicals that can result in fire, explosions and other events. The resulting costs include the injuries suffered by emergency personnel and other victims. It also includes efforts to clean up the hazardous waste generated by the production process.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance that can be taken orally, injected, snorted or smoked. One indicator of the problem locally is treatment admissions. Methamphetamine was the primary drug of abuse in 59 percent of the treatment admissions in Hawaii in 2004 and accounted for 38 percent of such admissions in Arizona in 2004.


RAND Corporation -- The report, "The Economic Costs of Methamphetamine Use in the United States - 2005.