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Prevalence Estimates

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Results From the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, more than 12 million people age 12 and older (5.3%) reported that they had used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime. Of those surveyed, 597,000 persons age 12 and older (0.3%) reported past month use of methamphetamine.

Since 1999, methamphetamine has been included in the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey questionnaire. Survey results indicate that annual methamphetamine use (use within the past year) by secondary school students in 1999 ranged from 3.2% among 8th graders, to 4.6% among 10th graders, to 4.7% among 12th graders. In 2002, estimates of annual methamphetamine use ranged from 2.2% among 8th graders, to 3.9% among 10th graders, to 3.6% among 12th graders.

Consequences of Use

Chronic methamphetamine abuse can result in inflammation of the heart lining and, for injecting drug users, damaged blood vessels and skin abscesses. Social and occupational connections progressively deteriorate for chronic methamphetamine users. Acute lead poisoning is another potential risk for methamphetamine abusers because of a common method of production that uses lead acetate as a reagent.

Medical consequences of methamphetamine use can include cardiovascular problems such as rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and stroke-producing damage to small blood vessels in the brain. Hyperthermia and convulsions can occur when a user overdoses and, if not treated immediately, can result in death. Research has shown that as much as 50% of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain can be damaged by prolonged exposure to relatively low levels of methamphetamine and that serotonin-containing nerve cells may be damaged even more extensively.

Methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy can cause prenatal complications such as increased rates of premature delivery and altered neonatal behavior patterns, such as abnormal reflexes and extreme irritability, and may be linked to congenital deformities. Methamphetamine abuse, particularly by those who inject the drug and share needles, can increase users’ risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.

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