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Methamphetamine


Methamphetamine is a Schedule II synthetic stimulant.  It is highly addictive and—because the euphoria associated with use diminishes quickly—users often take repeated doses in a binge-and-crash pattern.  Methamphetamine use can alter judgment and result in unsafe behaviors and significant negative consequences, including mood disturbances, violent behavior, and overdose.  Chronic use can cause paranoia and visual and auditory hallucinations.  A number of indicators point to increasing availability and abuse in the United States, especially in the southern and western regions among both young and older adults.

In the United States, methamphetamine abuse has historically been more prevalent in the mid- and southwest regions and in Indian Country, though other regions have experienced waves of use.  During the crisis in the mid-1990s, manufacture of illicit methamphetamine for domestic markets in the United States was largely domestic.  Small labs used precursor chemicals diverted from cold medications (i.e., ephedrine and pseudoephedrine), while precursor chemicals for “super labs” (i.e., those that can produce 10 or more pounds of methamphetamine at a time) came from abroad. 

By the mid-2000s, the United States, Canada, and Mexico had enacted legislation to control essential precursors used to manufacture methamphetamine.  Although these actions reduced production of illicit methamphetamine in super labs in the United States, in more recent years drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have changed production methods and are using different precursors to manufacture illicit methamphetamine.  The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimate that foreign-based DTOs produce the majority of illicit methamphetamine destined for distribution in the United States, with precursor chemicals either diverted from chemical companies in source countries with legitimate markets or clandestinely produced.  Finished methamphetamine is then smuggled across the Southwest border.  In recent years, purity has been high and the street price has been relatively low.

Federal agencies are working with source and transit countries to reduce availability of illicit methamphetamine in the United States and multilaterally with international bodies to coordinate activities among the many countries that also are struggling with methamphetamine production, trafficking, and use.  Bilateral, regional, and multilateral work also focuses on disrupting and dismantling the organizations that produce and traffic illicit methamphetamine and interdicting illicit methamphetamine and precursor chemicals.

Federal agencies also are working with law enforcement at the state, local, and tribal level.

Efforts range from seizures at the border to disrupting supply chains within our borders.  To help provide a coordinated approach to counternarcotic efforts at the border, ONDCP produces the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy.  This Congressionally-mandated document is published bi-annually and outlines U.S. Government agency roles and goals to reduce the flow of illicit drugs, drug proceeds, and associated instruments of violence across the Southwest border, and contains several actions related to reducing the availability of methamphetamine.  ONDCP’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program also supports specific methamphetamine initiatives, in addition to facilitating coordination among Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement. 

To learn more about methamphetamine and the U.S. government’s response, please see the following resources: