WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Methamphetamine use costs the United States about $23.4 billion a year considering lost lives and productivity, drug treatment, law enforcement expenses and other factors, according to a report released on Wednesday.
Methamphetamine, also called meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that users inject, snort, smoke or swallow. A form called crystal meth looks like fragments of glass and is smoked using a glass pipe like those used to smoke crack cocaine.
The report by the nonprofit RAND Corporation found that costs relating to the 900 people who died from using meth in 2005 and the addiction of many thousands of others accounted for two-thirds of the total economic burden.
“Our study represents the most comprehensive assessment so far of the economic costs of meth use in the United States. It shows the impact of methamphetamine is substantial,” RAND economist Nancy Nicosia said in a telephone interview.
Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating methamphetamine users plus the economic cost of various crimes they commit amounted to $4.2 billion in 2005, according to the report.
Some other costs included $546 million in drug treatment, $687 million in lost productivity and $905 million toward removing children from the homes of users.
A U.S. government survey showed that in 2007 about 13 million Americans ages 12 and up reported using methamphetamine at least once in their lifetimes, or 5 percent of that population. About 1.3 million people, or 0.5 percent, reported using it some time in the previous year, the survey showed.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said the drug is particularly popular in Western and Midwestern states.
Nicosia said methamphetamine accounts for 5.5 to 7.5 percent of the total cost of drug abuse in the United States.
Editing by Maggie Fox and Cynthia Osterman