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Methamphetamine Abuse Costs U.S. $23.4 Billion

Study cites crime, court fees, productivity losses and deaths among consequences

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- In 2005, the economic cost of methamphetamine use in the United States was $23.4 billion, according to a RAND Corporation study of the financial impact of addiction, premature death and other issues associated with the drug.

While methamphetamine causes some unique types of harm, many of the costs associated with its use are the same as those identified in economic assessments of other illicit drugs, the study found.

Almost two-thirds of the costs caused by methamphetamine use resulted from the burden of addiction and the estimated 900 premature deaths among users in 2005. The second largest cost category was crime and criminal justice, including the costs of arresting and jailing drug offenders and dealing with non-drug crimes committed by methamphetamine users, such as thefts committed to support their drug habit.

Loss of productivity, the removal of children from their parents' homes because of methamphetamine use, and drug treatment were among the other factors associated with the economic cost of the drug.

The study cited the production of methamphetamine as another cost category, explaining that producing the drug requires toxic chemicals that can result in fire, explosions and other dangerous events. The resulting costs cover such things as cleaning up the hazardous waste generated by methamphetamine production and injuries suffered by emergency workers and other victims.

"Estimates of the economic costs of illicit drug use can highlight the consequences of illegal drug use on our society and focus attention on the primary drivers of these costs," study lead author Nancy Nicosia, an economist at RAND, said in a news release from the nonprofit research organization. "But more work is needed to identify areas where interventions to reduce these harms could prove most effective."

The study was sponsored by the nonprofit Meth Project Foundation and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"We commissioned this study to provide decision-makers with the best possible estimate of the financial burden that methamphetamine use places on the American public," Tom Siebel, founder and chairman of the Meth Project, which aims to reduce first-time use of the drug, said in the news release.

"This is the first comprehensive economic impact study ever to be conducted with the rigor of a traditional cost-of-illness study, applied specifically to methamphetamine," Siebel said. "It provides a conservative estimate of the total cost of meth, and it reinforces the need to invest in serious prevention programs that work."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about methamphetamine.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: RAND Corporation, news release, Feb. 4, 2009

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