Meth Surge Now Rivals Opioids for National Headlines

Ice epidemic words on the chalkboard with a hand holding a bag of meth.

Most of the headlines I see on America’s addiction crisis are related to the opioid epidemic, and rightly so. Opiates account for a significant portion of our nation's drug crisis. But it’s not the only drug to be aware of.

An article that caught my eye was a U.S. News headline from early March entitled “Breaking Back to Meth?” The report revealed an uptick in methamphetamine use in the United States, primarily because of a change in supply. Whereas previous years saw most of U.S. meth being made in domestic, clandestine drug labs scattered across rural America, new data now suggests that much of the meth flooding the U.S. market is a cheaper, more potent substance made and trafficked by Mexican drug cartels. That’s pretty concerning.

Another Round of Meth Abuse

The turn of the century and the first few years of the 2000s saw some of the highest meth use statistics in U.S. history. Those years also saw the most meth lab busts in U.S. history. Across the United States, thousands of meth labs were busted every year. As the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency got a handle on the meth lab situation in the States, meth lab seizures began to fall. They fell so much in fact that 2018 saw the lowest number of meth lab seizures in 15 years. That was a good thing.

But it was a false win because meth abuse is still quite prevalent. Why is that?

Many bags of meth.

The only thing that changed was that meth users stopped trying to make meth in the U.S. Why would they need to, when they could get it cheaper from Mexican cartels? According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations (mentioned in U.S. News), seizures of methamphetamine at the southwest border grew from 14,131 pounds of meth seized in 2012 to 56,373 pounds of meth taken in 2018. Astounding.

Our country did an excellent job of cracking down on U.S.-made meth. The “Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act” went into place in 2006. That act barred customers in retail pharmacies from direct access to any medications which contained pseudoephedrine which is one of the key ingredients used in meth production.

Couple that change with increased efforts from DEA offices all across the United States and American meth production dropped off significantly. But the demand was still there. Millions of Americans were still addicted to the stuff, and they were having a hard time getting it.

Mexican drug cartels which were already sending heroin and marijuana into the U.S. saw a marketing opportunity and they went for it. Meth trafficking into the U.S. skyrocketed. Federal customs and border patrol agents are now having a difficult time curbing the flood of narcotics.

That’s why every American has to commit to stamping out meth abuse in their community, and commit to ensuring that meth misuse does not come back.

What You Can Do to Reverse and Prevent Meth Use in Your Community

Every time a community is exposed to methamphetamine, madness ensues. Don't let this happen in your town. And if it’s already occurring, it’s time to take decisive action to reverse the trend.

The most effective methods for curbing drug issues in any community are through prevention and rehabilitation.

School students on a lesson.

Prevention is merely the act or fact of stopping something from occurring before it happens. Probably the best way to prevent people in your community from using drugs is to get them informed on drugs. The lack of knowledge that people have is incredible. And that lack of information, coupled with peer pressure from friends/family who are already using drugs, makes for a dangerous combination.

Preventing people from using meth comes down to raising awareness of how damaging and harmful methamphetamine is. Many methods of education can be done, such as showing pictures of what meth use does to a person’s body, informing people of the toxic chemicals that go into making meth, discussing how bad meth is to the heart, lungs, brain, nervous system, and so on. These are all prevention strategies.

Rehabilitation is a crucial step for ensuring a community does not suffer from drug addiction. You can spend a lot of time working on prevention efforts, but if there are people in your community who are already using meth, prevention is too late for them. They’re hooked, and they’ll need help to break away from their habit.

This is where rehabilitation is necessary. Drug addiction rehabilitation is best accomplished at a qualified, residential addiction treatment center. Most addicts will not be able to overcome a methamphetamine addiction without help from such a program.

Some people erroneously believe that, because meth is not an opiate and does not create an intensive chemical dependency that it is not so addictive; so why would a person need to seek addiction treatment for using it?

But let’s examine two pieces of data from the National Institution on Drug Abuse (NIDA) which show just how dangerous and addictive meth is. First off, NIDA says that meth is highly addictive. The NIDA writers talk about how, when people stop taking meth, they usually experience fatigue, anxiety, psychosis, intense drug cravings, severe depression, and the like. Furthermore, NIDA also cautions that meth can cause overdose deaths when one takes too much of it.

For a drug to have that kind of influence on those who experiment with it means that it is not something anyone wants to try and deal with on their own. If you or someone you know are struggling with a meth habit, you need to make sure you or they find help from an addiction treatment center as soon as possible.

Always Know that Help Is Available

Drug addiction can seem like an insurmountable foe, a towering demon that will not relinquish its hold. The best way to create a safe, drug-free community is to prevent drug use from sinking its hooks into your neighbors and friends. But that’s not going to work 100% of the time. For those who do fall prey to a methamphetamine habit, or any other drug habit for that matter, you have to do your best to get them into a treatment center. Narconon can help you with that. We are here if you need us.


Reviewed and edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.