Meth Use Among U.S. Youth Higher than Expected

WASHINGTON — The number of young people in the United States using crystal methamphetamine could be twice as high as previous estimates, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Analyzing 2001-02 data from the “National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health,” researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse — part of the NIH — found that 2.8 percent of young adults between the ages 18 and 26 reported using crystal methamphetamine during the previous 12 months.

Published in the July issue of the journal Addiction, the new NIDA findings are double the prevalence of use reported among young adults between the ages 19 and 28 in NIDA’s 2002 Monitoring the Future Survey.

The new study found that methamphetamine users were disproportionately white, male, and living in western states. Lower socioeconomic status was another common factor associated with users. Male users were also more likely to have fathers who were incarcerated.

Researchers examined data related to certain characteristics of methamphetamine users such as sociodemographics and social behaviors. In analyzing the 2001-02 data, researchers also looked at associations between methamphetamine use and antisocial and high-risk behavior, such as crime, violence and risky sexual behavior, in comparison to other drug use.

The concomitant use of other substances, such as alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, was also common among crystal methamphetamine users, according to the study.

The study found that associations between crystal methamphetamine use and criminal and sexual behavior demonstrated statistically significant differences in terms of gender.

There was a stronger positive correlation between drug use and both criminal and high-risk sexual behavior among females, according to the study.

Researchers were unable to determine the directional nature of the association, emphasizing the need for further research to deconstruct the relationship between drug use and behavior.

National Institutes of Health

National Institute on Drug Abuse

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