Methamphetamine (Meth)

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that can be injected, snorted, smoked, or ingested orally. Methamphetamine users feel a short yet intense “rush” when the drug is initially administered. The immediate effects of methamphetamine include increased activity and decreased appetite. The drug has very limited medical uses for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorders, and obesity.

How Meth is Produced

Methamphetamine is easily produced in clandestine laboratories or meth labs using a variety of ingredients available in stores. The manufacturing of methamphetamine is called “cooking”. Cooking a batch of meth can be very dangerous due to the fact that the chemicals used are volatile and the by-products are very toxic. Meth labs present a danger to the meth cook, the community surrounding the lab, and the law enforcement personnel who discover the lab.

Most methamphetamines distributed on the black market are produced in clandestine laboratories. Methamphetamine laboratories are, by far, the most frequently encountered clandestine laboratories in the United States. The ease of clandestine synthesis, combined with tremendous profits, has resulted in significant availability of illicit methamphetamine. Large amounts of methamphetamine are also illicitly smuggled into the United States from Mexico.

Increased restrictions on cold preparations and other medicines containing methamphetamine precursor chemicals in many states have contributed to sharp declines in the number of labs in those states. Additionally, restricted importation of bulk pseudoephedrine from Canada since January 2003 has resulted in significant declines in the number of domestic methamphetamine superlabs.

Decreased domestic methamphetamine production is reducing wholesale supplies of domestically produced methamphetamine. The decreased production is a result of law enforcement pressure, public awareness campaigns, and increased regulation of the sale and use of precursor and essential chemicals used in methamphetamine production. However, decreases in domestic methamphetamine production have been offset by increased production in Mexico.

As methamphetamine production in small-scale laboratories has decreased nationally since 2004, Mexican criminal groups have expanded direct distribution of methamphetamine, even in many smaller communities. For example, in Midwestern states such as Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio, where methamphetamine laboratory seizures have decreased significantly, Mexican criminal groups have gained control over most distribution of the drug. Law enforcement reports confirm a similar trend throughout much of the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Florida/Caribbean, Southeast, and West Central Regions.

These groups pose an increased challenge to local law enforcement because they are often Mexico-based, well-organized, and experienced drug distributors that have been successful in blending into somewhat insular Hispanic communities or among Hispanic workers employed in the agricultural, landscaping, construction, and meat packaging industries. The ability of Mexican criminal groups to continue the expansion of methamphetamine distribution into more communities in the eastern United States appears to be limited primarily by their capability to further expand methamphetamine production in Mexico.

Effects of Meth

Long-term methamphetamine abuse can cause addiction, anxiety, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. Additionally, psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions (such as the sensation of bugs crawling under the user’s skin)can occur. The psychotic symptoms can last for months or years after methamphetamine use has ceased.

From 1995–2005, the number of admissions to treatment in which methamphetamine was the primary drug of abuse increased from 47,695 in 1995 to 152,368 in 2005. The methamphetamine admissions represented 2.8% of the total drug/alcohol admissions to treatment during 1995 and 8.2% of the treatment admissions in 2005. The average age of those admitted to treatment for methamphetamine/amphetamine during 2005 was 31 years.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported 6,090 methamphetamine-related arrests during 2005, an increase from 5,893 in 2004 and 6,055 in 2003. During FY 2006, there were 5,395 federal defendants sentenced for methamphetamine-related charges in U.S. Courts. Approximately 98% of the cases involved methamphetamine trafficking.


Methamphetamine is a Schedule II narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. The chemicals that are used to produce methamphetamine are also controlled under the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996 (MCA). This legislation broadened the controls on listed chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine, increased penalties for the trafficking and manufacturing of methamphetamine and listed chemicals, and expanded the controls of products containing the licit chemicals ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine (PPA).

Recognizing that the use of methamphetamine has reached epidemic proportions, a number of members of Congress have submitted anti-methamphetamine bills for approval at the federal level during this session of Congress in an attempt to further strengthen and enhance our efforts at dealing with methamphetamine. No less than two dozen bills are currently pending in Congress.