Content is Fact Checked

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Claire Wilcox, M.D., Nov 21, 2019
Updated: Nov 21, 2019

Methamphetamine was originally synthesized in Japan in 1893 but wasn’t widely used until governments on both sides began distributing it to their soldiers during World War II. Today, methamphetamine is responsible for the fifth highest overdose rate in the United States, contributing to 10,333 deaths in 2017 alone.

Meth is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system, most frequently found in the form of a bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal meth is the same chemical, but it takes the form of glass or blueish-white rocks. Methamphetamine is a variant of amphetamine, which is a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

This guide will take an extensive look at the statistics of methamphetamine use, covering its complete effects and dangers, as well as the science behind methamphetamine addiction.


Monitoring the Future (MTF) is an annual survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991.

Overall, 44,892 students from 382 public and private schools participated in the 2015 survey.

First figure: Last Two Decades of Alcohol, Cigarette, and Illicit Drug Use*
*Past-month use

This graphic illustrates past-month use of alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from 1995 through 2015.

In 2015, past-month use in each category was:

12th graders: 35.3%
10th graders: 21.5%
8th graders: 9.7%

12th graders: 11.4%
10th graders: 6.3%
8th graders: 3.6%

Illicit Drugs
12th graders: 23.6%
10th graders: 16.5%
8th graders: 8.1%

Second figure: Teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than cigarettes.*
* Past-month use

8th grade
Cigarettes: 3.6%
e-Cigarettes: 9.5%

10th grade
Cigarettes: 6.3%
e-Cigarettes: 14.0%

12th grade
Cigarettes: 11.4%
e-Cigarettes: 16.2%

64.7 percent of 12th graders reported vaporizing “just flavoring” in their last e-cigarette; some didn’t know what they inhaled. E-cigs are unregulated so flavored liquid might actually contain nicotine.

Flavoring: 64.7%
Nicotine: 22.2%
Marijuana or hash oil: 6.1%
Don't know: 6.3%

Third figure:  68.1 percent of high school seniors do not view regular marijuana smoking as harmful, but 71 percent say they disapprove of regular marijuana smoking.

Forth figure: Prescription/Over-the-Counter (OTC) vs. Illicit Drugs*
*The percentage of 12 graders who have used these drugs in the past year

Despite the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, past-year use of opioids other than heroin has decreased significantly each year over the past 5 years among the nation’s teens. Heroin use has also decreased over the past 5 years and is at the lowest rate since the MTF survey began.

This list shows the percentage of 12th graders who have used these drugs in the past year.

Amphetamines – 7.7%
Adderall – 7.5%
Opioids other than Heroin – 5.4%
Tranquilizers – 4.7%
Cough Medicine – 4.6%
Vicodin – 4.4%
OxyContin – 3.7%
Sedatives – 3.6%
Ritalin – 2.0%

Illicit Drugs
Marijuana/Hashish – 34.9%
Synthetic Marijuana – 5.2%
Hallucinogens – 4.2%
MDMA (Ecstasy) – 3.6%
Cocaine (any form) – 2.5%
Inhalants – 1.9%
Salvia – 1.9%

Fifth figure: Students report lowest rates since start of the survey. Across all grades, past-year use of inhalants, heroin, methamphetamine, alcohol, cigarettes, and synthetic cannabinoids are at their lowest by many measures.

For more information, visit us @NIDAnews

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at

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