RAND DPRC Insights

Vol. 4, No. 1, 2009

A monthly report on key public policy findings of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center

Methamphetamine Costs U.S. Society $20 Billion Per Year or More

Methamphetamine production and trafficking are large and growing concerns for U.S. law enforcement, while the drug's abuse is placing greater burdens on health and substance abuse treatment facilities, particularly in Western and rural states. Despite methamphetamine's emergence, the cost and burden the drug places on U.S. society had not been quantified. A new DPRC study does just that.

Using data from a variety of sources, DPRC researchers estimated that methamphetamine cost society at least $23.4 billion in 2005, the most recent year for which a broad span of data are available. These costs represent about 5.5 percent of the total societal burden of drug use, as previously estimated by other researchers. Because of substantial uncertainty in the literature and data sources, the DPRC researchers provided lower and upper bound societal burden estimates of $16.2 billion and $48.3 billion.

The estimate also includes some of the costs associated with treatment, health care costs, lost productivity, child endangerment, and production. Other costs could not be estimated, either because data were lacking, or because the effects of methamphetamine, though likely, had not been scientifically verified.

Graph indicating that the intangible costs of addiction made up most of methamphetamine's burden on society in 2005


The Economic Cost of Methamphetamine Use in the United States, 2005
Nicosia N, Pacula RL, Kilmer B, Lundberg R, Chiesa J.

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