Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant drug that was developed in Japan and initially used to treat lethargy.
Meth retains some medicinal uses in some countries, including in the United States where it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Most of the methamphetamine abused on the street worldwide is manufactured in private laboratories. It is not the medicinal methamphetamine that comes in pill form.
Methamphetamine is often manufactured in private laboratories in Mexico and countries in West Africa. The drug is then smuggled into different countries around the world.
Street methamphetamine goes by a variety of names, including crystal meth, ice, and glass.
According to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, about 500 metric tons of amphetamine stimulants were produced in 2015.
There are about 24.7 million amphetamine-type stimulant abusers worldwide. In 2018, these figures continued to increase.
The label amphetamine-type stimulants includes methamphetamine and several other stimulants. Figures specifically for methamphetamine use and abuse are not available for every country but may be included under this heading.
The heaviest abuse of meth (street methamphetamine) appears to occur in parts of Asia, Europe, Australia, and the United States.
For some countries, data for 2017 or 2018 is not readily available. In many countries there is not a clear designation between methamphetamine use/abuse and the use/abuse of other amphetamines like cocaine in many countries.
The fastest rising synthetic drug of abuse in the world appears to be methamphetamine, as the figures here will bear out. In some areas, like the United Kingdom, methamphetamine abuse has not accelerated to the extent that it has in other areas, like parts of Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Nonetheless, globally, methamphetamine use and abuse appear to be on the rise.
The United Kingdom publishes statistics on the major drugs of abuse. These include figures regarding abuse of amphetamines, the class of drugs methamphetamines are placed in. According to the data in the UK:
Figures from the UK suggest that methamphetamine abuse has not been as big a problem in the UK as it has been in some other European countries.
According to information provided in the European Drug Report: Trends and Statistics 2017, cocaine is the most frequently seized stimulant by law enforcement authorities in western and southern European countries. Methamphetamine is the most commonly seized stimulant in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, and Slovakia.
Methamphetamine is primarily produced in Europe in the Czech Republic. It may also be produced in some other countries like the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Bulgaria.
About 2 percent of high school students report having used methamphetamine in Europe. Other figures for Europe suggest that:
Methamphetamine use is only documented in a few countries. It is generally low in Europe. The highest concentrations of methamphetamine use appear to be in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and East Germany as well as some cities of Finland.
Analysis of wastewater suggests many cities in these areas have seen increases in methamphetamine use (see below).
According to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, a study analyzing the wastewater in 19 countries (almost 60 cities) across Europe that lasted for seven consecutive years (2011 to 2017) found that some of the highest levels of methamphetamine were in cities located in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Methamphetamine was also present in the wastewater of several other countries, including Cyprus, Finland, East Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and Switzerland.
At some sites, methamphetamine levels in the wastewater were higher than those for cocaine, indicating that methamphetamine use in Europe may be accelerating.
Africa has traditionally been perceived as a transit country for drugs that are headed to the Far East. As a result, certain drugs of abuse have become popular in certain sections of Africa.
Although figures for the entire continent are hard to come by, Cape Town in South Africa was once a regional site for methamphetamine production and trafficking. Meth is often referred to as tik in South Africa.
South Africa, especially Cape Town, may have a very high prevalence of methamphetamine users. As much as 2 percent of the entire adult population uses meth.
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According to several sources, there has been an increase in illicit drug offenses in Australia that started around 2010. Methamphetamine has become more available to drug users in Australia, and the country may have one of the highest rates of meth abuse in the entire world.
A recent article in Time reported that more than 7 percent of adults in Australia (more than 1.3 million Australians) have reported they have tried meth, with about 400,000 adults reporting using meth within the month before the survey. This would qualify as one of the highest rates of meth abuse in the entire world.
Young adults appear to be the highest risk group. Men (8.2 percent) are more likely to use methamphetamine than women (5.9 percent).
Methamphetamine use in Central and South America is often included under the label of amphetamine-type stimulant use/abuse, which includes cocaine. According to some of the latest figures, this is the prevalence of amphetamine-type stimulant use in various Central and South American countries:
Much of the methamphetamine that comes into the United States, or that is illegally smuggled to other parts of the world, comes from Central America and South America. There may be quite a bit of undocumented methamphetamine use in these countries.
Hospital admissions for amphetamine-type stimulants are not well documented in Central and South America. There is information to suggest that there was a large number of admissions related to methamphetamine use in Mexico (more than 11,600) in 2010. Other data suggests that Venezuela reported nearly 30 admissions related to methamphetamine use in 2010.
Amphetamine-type stimulants, including methamphetamine, are major drugs of abuse in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Confiscation of methamphetamine pills has increased fivefold. Methamphetamine and other amphetamine-type stimulants may be the second or even the most popular drug of abuse (behind opioids).
According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime:
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that this represents about 0.6 percent of the population. Past-month meth users represent about 0.3 percent of the population.
Unlike in some other countries, methamphetamine use in the United States may be declining, particularly among younger individuals. This conclusion is based on data like the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey that surveys middle school and high school students about their attitudes toward drugs and use of illicit drugs.
There may be regional variations in the use of methamphetamine. East of the Mississippi, methamphetamine is listed as the primary substance of abuse in less than 1 percent of substance abuse treatment sites, whereas west of the Mississippi, the estimates are far higher (at 12 to 29 percent).
Overdose deaths from amphetamine-type drugs increased between 2007 and 2017, according to NIDA.
This may reflect the tendency for many of these substances to be laced with other potentially dangerous drugs like fentanyl.
In many countries, methamphetamine is the primary synthetic drug of abuse. In some areas, like parts of Europe (Czech Republic), Australia, Asia, and the United States, methamphetamine is a significant drug of abuse.
Medicinal forms of methamphetamine are not abused as often as illicitly produced forms of methamphetamine (crystal meth or glass). Continued efforts to crack down on the illicit production of methamphetamine aim to limit its availability and its abuse worldwide.
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