The University of Arizona

History, Pharmacology, and Prevalence
Methamphetamine Overview:

Amphetamine-type stimulants, including methamphetamine, are the world's second most commonly used illicit drug (surpassed only by marijuana), with at least 30 million people using it regularly.[1-3]

MA in the United States has grown in popularity as reflected by the fact that treatment admissions of persons with primary MA use problems increased from approximately 28,000 in 1993 (about 2% of 1.6 million drug treatment admissions that year) to approximately 136,000 in 2003 (over 7% of 1.8 million treatment admissions in 2003) (Graph 1).[4,5]

MA use in the United States varies geographically, with the highest rate of use in the West and the lowest in the Northeast.  For example, the National Surveys of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated that in 2006 the following percentages of the adult population (aged 12 and older) used MA: Northeast―0.3%, Midwest―0.5%, South―0.7%, and West―1.6%.[4]

Whites constitute the bulk of MA/amphetamine treatment admissions in the U.S.—73% in 2003.  Latinos, however, are a growing percentage of such admissions, increasing from 9% to 16% of admissions during 1993 through 2003.[4]

Over the years, the patterns in route of administration for MA have changed.  In 1993, inhalation (42%) was the most frequently used route of administration among primary MA/amphetamine admissions.  This was followed by injecting, smoking, oral, and other route of administration.  In 2003, smoking (56%) was the most frequently used route of administration followed by injection, inhalation, oral, and other(Graph 2).[4]   Research indicates that this change in route of administration was in part an inadvertent impact associated with precursor chemical regulations (precursor regulations are government regulations designed to limit access to the chemicals―ephedrine and pseudoephedrine―used to produce methamphetamine).[6]

A NSDUH report examined MA use, abuse, and dependence for the period of 2002 to 2004 (Graphs 3, 4, and 5). To examine the report further, please click here.

Trends in Arizona

Amphetamine-related hospitalizations in Arizona rose sharply during 2000-2005 as can be seen in the University of Arizona report on drug-related hospitalizations(Graph 6).[7]  In Maricopa County (Phoenix area), amphetamine-related hospitalizations outnumbered those related to cocaine and opioids/heroin (Graph 7).  In Pima County (Tucson area), cocaine and opioid/heroin-related hospitalizations outnumbered those associated with amphetamines (Graph 8), even though Pima’s amphetamine-related admission rate per 100,000 population was higher than Maricopa’s rate.  In the rural counties of Arizona, amphetamine-related hospitalizations outnumbered those related to cocaine and opioids/heroin (Graph 9).



  • (1) Office of National Drug Control Policy. Methamphetamine Fact Sheet. ONDCP 2005 August 18Available from: URL:
  • (2) United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. 2004 World Drug Report. United Nations Publication; 2008.
  • (3) ScienceDaily. Mother's Drug Use Increases Risks for Male Offspring. ScienceDaily 2001 July 17Available from: URL:
  • (4) DASIS Report. Trends in Methamphetamine/Amphetamine Admissions to Treatment: 1993-2003. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA; 2006.
  • (5) Office of Applied Studies. Methamphetamine Use, Abuse, and Dependence: 2002, 2003, and 2004. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA; 2005 Sep 16.
  • (6) Cunningham JK, Liu LM, Muramoto M. Methamphetamine suppression and route of administration: precursor regulation impacts on snorting, smoking, swallowing and injecting. Addiciton 2008 Apr 16.
  • (7) Cunningham JK. Methamphetamine, Cocaine, and Heroin/Opioid Hospital Admissions in Arizona: Trends and Regional Variations (1990-2006). Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona; 2007.



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    Graph 9