The Economic Cost of Methamphetamine Use in the United States

Video: RAND Congressional Briefing Series

In Cooperation with the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine


Rosalie Liccardo Pacula


RAND Drug Policy Research Center

Curbing methamphetamine (meth) use is an issue that Congress has been working hard to address. Meth has become a major drug of abuse in many states, as indicated by law enforcement priorities, substance abuse–related emergency room visits, and treatment admissions. Recent congressional action includes (1) adding provisions to curb meth use, trafficking, and production to the PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and (2) passing the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2007, which addresses how the illicit use and manufacturing of meth endangers children.

To further assess the scope of the meth problem in the United States, RAND conducted the first comprehensive national assessment of the annual economic burden posed by meth use. Study findings and recommendations include the following:

  • The economic cost of methamphetamine use in the United States reached $23.4 billion in 2005.
  • Most of the expenses result from death of meth users and from crime and criminal justice costs.
  • Many costs of meth use are intangible and cannot yet be adequately measured.
  • More work is needed to identify areas in which intervention to reduce meth use could prove the most cost-effective.

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