Saturday, April 25, 2009

Meth Map of the US

This map of methamphetamine use by state is based on data from PBS, who ran a Frontline episode on the meth epidemic a while back.



They actually have their own map of this data (which is from 2003, by the way), but it doesn't capture enough of the variation at the top of the scale between a state like Kansas, which had 54 meth users per 100,000 residents admitted for treatment, and Oregon, which has 212.

Meth's West Coast origins are obvious from this map and, at least as of a few years ago, the drug had yet to make serious inroads on the East Coast. PBS's chart has a substantial capsule on each state. For Oregon, for instance, they say:
Methamphetamine is currently one of the most widely abused drugs in Oregon, where there are more individuals seeking treatment for a meth addiction per capita than in any other state in the nation. In 2004, 8,561 residents sought treatment for meth addiction, or about 19.0 percent of all persons seeking substance abuse treatment -- more than the number of people seeking treatment for cocaine and marijuana abuse combined. Although this number has decreased from a high of 9,463 individuals in 2002, it has increased from 2000 when 7,665 did. Although Mexican traffickers provide most of the meth in circulation in Oregon, the state is also home to a large number of local clandestine labs. In 2004, DEA, state and local officials seized 472 labs. Similarly, "crystal" meth, the purer, more addictive form of the drug, is becoming increasingly available throughout the state and is the exclusive variety now available in Central Oregon. This type of meth is often taken intravenously and is thought to be the cause of a recent rise in syphilis cases, and state health officials fear it might cause a boom in cases of HIV.
Meth causes bad problems:
In 2005 it was reported that 58 percent of law enforcement officials in 500 counties surveyed by the National Association of Counties cite methamphetamine as their biggest drug problem. Half in the sample said that up to 20 percent of their inmates were incarcerated because of meth-related crimes, and some segments representing small counties and areas in the upper Midwest reported as many as 75 to 100 percent of their incarcerations as meth-related.

While that survey drew on a disproportionate number of counties in the West where meth is most widely available, the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) in February 2005, published results from a larger, random sample of 3,400 drug enforcement agencies nationwide. In the NDIC survey, for the first time since they have been taking such surveys, a plurality (40 percent) considered meth their leading drug threat. Cocaine came in second at 36 percent, and marijuana at 12 percent.
Needless to say, we're taking our usual hyperventilating "ban it!" approach to dealing with the problem rather than focusing on prevention and treatment. That's not to say prevention and treatment would rub out the problem; but we all know what sorts of raging successes are likely to derive from the War-On-Drugs approach. At the very least, color me skeptical that sending a whole new class of addicted individuals to prison is likely to do much to solve the social problems for which the drug is responsible.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting data. But I'm a little concerned the data may be skewed by the availability of state treatment programs (or perhaps the willingness of people in a particular state to ask for help). Many southern states, in particular, spend almost nothing on treatment programs.

As an example of how the data can be skewed...the NY Times reported several days ago that there were many, many more food poisoning cases reported in Minnesota than in Kentucky last year. Is Kentucky safer than Minnesota? Hardly: Minnesota has an active, well-funded food safety program, Kentucky's is practically non-existent.

So I wonder - - is Oregon the worst because it has the most meth, or because it has the best treatment programs?

Chachy said...

I had the same thought, and I don't know how much it is skewing the data, if at all. But it's also true that the whole meth thing started on the West Coast, particularly in Oregon, and spread east from there, especially throgh rural areas. And that's confirmed by reports from local police and whatnot, so I think the broad patterns, at least, are clear, and consistent with this data. (More confirmation lies in the broad range of meth abuse admission rates, from under 10 to over 200; that much difference surely can't be explained by differences in treatment availability alone.)

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