The Facts About Methamphetamine (Meth) Use Among Teens

What Parents Should Know About Crystal Meth Use Among Teens

Close-Up Of Methamphetamine Jar On Table. Credit: Daniel Kaesler / EyeEm / Getty Images

Methamphetamine (commonly known as meth) drug use among teens is currently declining, which is good news. But the use of this drug by teenagers is still a problem and parents need to remain aware.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine—also known as Meth, Crystal Meth or just "Crystal," Tina, Glass and Ice—is related to amphetamines, which you may be familiar with through the common ADHD medication Adderall, and other central nervous system stimulants such as Benzedrine and Dexidrine.

 Amphetamines have been around a long time, being first discovered in 1887. Methamphetamine came on to the scene in 1919, and in 1971 the U.S. Congress classified the medications as Schedule II drugs, only available with a medication and strictly regulated.

Meth in its pure form is a clear crystal that has no odor—thus giving rise to another common name, "crystal meth." Impurities cause the drug to have color such as brown or yellow. 

Crystal Meth is used in a variety of ways. It can come in the form of liquid distilled in water that is injected, a powder that is snorted, and a rock form that can be freebased or smoked. It can be taken orally, or less commonly anally or through the urethra. 

The Dangers of Meth Use

Crystal Meth is a central nervous system stimulant with a high that can last as long as 12 hours. Users experience an initial rush of increased energy and activity levels, decreased appetite, as well as a sense of boosted confidence or even aggressiveness.

Prolonged use leads to addiction and considerable health problems, both physical and mental. These include the infamous "meth mouth," which is typified by severe dental issues from rotting and blackened teeth. Sleeplessness, disordered thinkingpsychosiskidney damagemuscle breakdown and other issues also come with long-term abuse.

Methamphetamine Use Statistics Among Teens

Here are some of the important statistics of teen methamphetamine (meth) drug use from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • The rate of past-month use for methamphetamine did not change between 2002 and 2005: 0.3 percent in 2002 versus 0.2 percent in 2005.
  • Past year methamphetamine use declined from 2002 to 2005, from 0.7 to 0.5 percent.
  • The lifetime rate also declined from 5.3 to 4.3 percent between 2002 and 2005.
  • As meth is a very deadly drug, it is important to look at this statistic as well: "Although the number of past month users has remained steady since 2002, the number of methamphetamine users who were dependent on or abused some illicit drug did rise significantly during this period, from 164,000 in 2002 to 257,000 in 2005".

Meth use has been declining among teens and is thought to be only used in certain parts of the United States. The data from the 2007 Monitoring the Future Survey has shown significant drops that have held steady through 2011. The current numbers are as follows:

  • 8th graders at 1.6 percent
  • 10th graders at 1.3 percent
  • 12th graders at 1.2 percent

It is also important to note that 14 percent of 10th graders feel it is easy to get their hands on meth if they choose to, which dropped 4.5 percentage points from 19.5 percent in five years' time.

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