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This first national estimate suggests that the economic cost of methamphetamine (meth) use in the United States reached $23.4 billion in 2005. Given the uncertainty in estimating the costs of meth use, this book provides a lower-bound estimate of $16.2 billion and an upper-bound estimate of $48.3 billion. The analysis considers a wide range of consequences due to meth use, including the burden of addiction, premature death, drug treatment, and aspects of lost productivity, crime and criminal justice, health care, production and environmental hazards, and child endangerment. Other potential harms of meth, however, could not be included due to a lack of scientific evidence or to data issues. Although meth causes some unique harms, many of the primary cost drivers are similar to those identified in economic assessments of other illicit drugs. Among the most costly elements are the intangible burden of addiction and premature death, which account for nearly two-thirds of the economic costs. The intangible burden of addiction measures the lower quality of life experienced by those addicted to the drug. Crime and criminal-justice costs also account for a significant share of economic costs, as do lost productivity, removing a child from the parents' home, and drug treatment. One unusual cost captured in the analysis is that associated with the production of meth, which requires toxic chemicals that can result in fire, explosions, and other negative events.

This study was sponsored by the Meth Project Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse and was conducted under the auspices of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, a joint endeavor of RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment and RAND Health.

This report is part of the RAND monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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