Methamphetamine and New Psychoactive Substances
The production and use of methamphetamine is a serious threat to the health and safety of our communities. Meth is an addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain and has a high potential for abuse. Most of the methamphetamine abused in this country comes from foreign or domestic superlabs, although it can also be made in small, illegal laboratories, where its production endangers the people in the labs, neighbors, and the environment.
The chemicals or ingredients needed to manufacture methamphetamine are often illegally diverted from legitimate sources. Some of these precursor chemicals include pseudoephedrine (contained in over-the-counter cold medicines), anhydrous ammonia (used primarily as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant), and red phosphorus (used in matches).
Methamphetamine comes in more than one form – it can be smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested, though smoking has become more common recently. Smoking leads to very fast intake into the brain, which multiplies a user's potentional for developing a substance use disoder and other health implications.
ONDCP has several initiatives focused on addressing methamphetamine abuse.
National Methamphetamine & Pharmaceuticals Initiative
Part of ONDCP’s national High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, the National Methamphetamine & Pharmaceuticals Initiative (NMPI) is an initiative funded through the Southwest Border HIDTA California Region. Focused on reducing the availability of methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals throughout the United States, this national strategy includes intelligence sharing and training as key components. NMPI also seeks to reduce pharmaceutical drug crimes by utilizing best practices for investigations and intelligence collection and analysis. Learn more about the National Methamphetamine & Pharmaceuticals Initiative.
Since 2007, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has supported a national Anti-Meth Campaign through TV, radio, print, and online anti-meth advertising in areas of the country hardest hit by meth. The anti-meth messages are aimed at young adults (ages 18-34), as national survey data indicate that young adults, with an average age of first use of meth of approximately 21 years, are far more likely to use meth than teens or any other age group. The advertising and outreach has included messages that focus on preventing meth use and raising awareness about the benefits of treatment, and encouraging friends and family of meth users to seek treatment for their friend or loved one. The Campaign makes its anti-meth ads available as free resources for community organizations to use in their local markets. Learn more about the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.
Controlling Precursor Chemical
Methamphetamine is often produced using chemicals and other products that are illegally diverted from legitimate sources. Some of the precursor chemicals needed to manufacture meth include pseudoephedrine (contained in over the counter cold medicines), anhydrous ammonia (used primarily as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant), and red phosphorus (used in matches). Learn what ONDCP is doing to help control precursor chemicals.
- NIDA InfoFacts: Methamphetamine
- NIDA Research Report Series - Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction
- Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)
New psychoactive substances (NPS) comprise a category of rapidly evolving synthetic drugs that pose serious health risks. They are manufactured using chemicals that are often not controlled under the Controlled Substances Act and are designed to produce the same psychoactive effects as controlled substances. NPS can cause serious and immediate harm to users and have a high potential for abuse. Two major categories of NPS include synthetic cannabinoids, such as Spice and K2, and synthetic cathinones, which are also known as “bath salts.” Hallucinations, elevated heart rate, agitation, and death are among the effects that NPS can have on users.
NPS are sold online and in convenience stores and are usually marketed to younger populations—often through colorful and engaging packing. The chemical composition of these substances varies widely, and the drugs are introduced and reintroduced into the market in quick succession to evade or slow law enforcement efforts to address their manufacture and sale. For example, small changes in the chemical composition of a substance allows NPS manufactures to stay ahead of Federal regulators and domestic and international scheduling efforts.
Mostly manufactured in labs overseas, NPS are trafficked into the United States from abroad. Federal agencies are therefore working closely with partner nations and international and regional fora to address this global threat. In 2014 and in early 2015, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs adopted U.S.-supported resolutions to promote global cooperation on synthetic drugs and to push for tighter international control of the growing number of NPS smuggled into the United States and other countries.
ONDCP and other Federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Department of State, are working to increase public awareness of the dangers of NPS and to reduce availability of these drugs in our communities through regulation, enforcement actions, bilateral and multilateral engagements, and community-based prevention efforts.
To learn more about NPS, please see the following resources:
National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws Information on NPS:
- American Association of Poison Control Centers
- Congressional Research Service
- National Conference of State Legislatures
Effects and Use Trends
- National Institute on Drug Abuse Fact Sheet on Synthetic Marijuana
- National Institute on Drug Abuse Fact Sheet on Synthetic Cathinones
- Drug Enforcement Administration Synthetic Drugs Fact Sheets
- CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.” Notes from the Field: Increase in Reported Adverse Health Effects Related to Synthetic Cannabinoid Use — United States, January–May 2015
- Community Drug Early Warning System: The CDEWS Pilot Project (2013)
- Community Drug Early Warning System: The CDEWS-2 Replication Study (2015)
- Drug Misuse and Dependency
- New psychoactive substances in England: a review of the evidence
- Global Smart (Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends)
- European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction on Synthetic Cannabinoids in Europe
- New Psychoactive Substanes: Evidence Review
- NPS: Psychoactive Substances
- UNODC New Psychoactive Susbtances Portal and International Collaborative Exercise Portal