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Economic cost of meth use in 2005 estimated at $23.4 billion

Methamphetamine use costs the United States around $23.4 billion in 2005, a study conducted by the non-profit research group RAND Corporation revealed. The study also reported that most of the issues associated with the said economic burden of meth use are similar to those that constitute the economic costs of other illicit drugs. Among these issues are addiction-related problems, premature death, and drug treatment.

According to the study, almost two thirds of the costs caused by meth use can be attributed to premature deaths, which totalled 900 in 2005, and the addiction factor, which refers to the economic effect of the lower quality of life of most drug users.

Expenses on crimes and criminal justice, which includes costs involved in the arrest and incarceration of drug offenders, had the second biggest share in the total economic burden of methamphetamine use. These costs also include the burden of dealing with drug related crimes such as thefts conducted to support methamphetamine use.

Additional costs found to have significant contributions to the $23.4 billion estimate include drug treatment expenditure, the costs of taking care of children with drug-abusive parents, and loss of productivity.

The RAND study also identified production of methamphetamine as a new cost category that also contributed to their estimate. According to the researchers, methamphetamine production requires the use of toxic chemicals which can cause fire and explosions among other events. The resulting burden includes treatment of injuries and clean-up efforts to remove the resulting hazardous waste.

RAND, however, warns that the estimates they provided in their study are based mostly on the emerging understanding of the role of methamphetamine use in the issues they identified. Their estimates, they said, needs to be further refined as the understanding of meth’s role in the said issues matures.

According to lead author Nancy Nicosia, an economist of RAND, their study showed how substantial the economic burden of meth use is. Moreover, she explained that estimates of the costs of drugs use highlight the negative consequences of illicit drug abuse on society as well as attract attention to the primary causes of those costs. “But more work is needed to identify areas where interventions to reduce these harms could prove most effective,” she added.

This study was funded by the Meth Project Foundation, which is another non-profit organization dedicated to repressing first-time meth use. Additional support for the study was also given by the National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA.

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