Updated on February 6, 2024
6 min read

Which State is the Meth Capital of the US?

Methamphetamine use is on the rise in the United States. Reports show that meth-related arrests, overdose deaths, and hospitalizations have grown significantly in recent years. 

But which state has seen the most drastic jump and feels the brunt of this increase? This blog post dives deep into America's meth crisis to show how Missouri became the nation's “meth capital.” It also examines current research to uncover how each U.S. state stacks up regarding methamphetamine use.

Which Areas Are Considered the Meth Capitals of the US?

Meth capitals are areas that have seen the highest increases in methamphetamine-related crimes and arrests. According to a 2021 survey, 16,830 Americans aged 12 or older experimented with methamphetamine at some point.2

Missouri claims the title of America's meth production capital as of 2019, hosting 27.6 meth labs per 100,000 residents.2 The availability of methamphetamine has increased since 2012, resulting in a decline in street value. 

However, the potency of meth has seen a significant increase. Its purity level was 41% in 2007 but doubled to 82% in 2016.

Top 10 Meth Capitals in 2018

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 1.6 million people reported using meth in the past year.

The National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure system, which the Missouri State Highway Patrol maintains, provides a comprehensive record of meth-related seizures across all states in 2018.3

Meth seizures include the discovery of:

  • Dumpsites
  • Meth labs
  • Glassware
  • Chemical equipment 

The top 10 states with the highest number of meth-related seizures in 2018 are:3

StateNumber of Seizures
    Michigan220
New York220
Indiana144
Illinois129
North Carolina 127
California 114
Pennsylvania 105
Tennessee 102
Ohio 60
Florida 59

How Did These Areas Become Meth Capitals?

The rise of methamphetamine use stems from several factors. These include poverty, economic issues, and the availability of drugs in certain areas.

Rural Communities

Meth dealers frequent these areas looking for new markets. The drug is often cheaper than prescription and other illegal substances, making it attractive to those with limited financial resources.

Low-Income Households

This group has limited access to health care, substance use prevention initiatives, and drug treatment programs. All of these can lead to higher rates of meth use in those areas.

Rise in Mental Health Issues

These concerns are another factor that contributes to high meth use. Those suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems may turn to meth to self-medicate.

Meth's Nature

The drug is a highly addictive substance and can cause physical dependence. Meth addiction leads users to seek out more of it, thus creating a cycle that is difficult to break out of.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, known as “meth” or “crystal meth,” is a powerful psychostimulant that affects the central nervous system (CNS).1 It comes in various forms, which users smoke, inject, snort, or swallow.

Meth produces an intense rush of euphoria by releasing high dopamine levels into the brain. However, this good feeling is short-lived, and users soon experience a deep “crash.” 

To prevent the latter, users often take higher drug doses, leading to addiction and possibly overdose. Other risks of using meth include:

  • Stroke from increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Psychotic behavior
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What Impact Does Being a Meth Capital Have on a Community?

The consequences of meth addiction and use in a community can be dire. Meth-related overdoses, crimes, and deaths all take their toll on an area’s resources and well-being.

High rates of meth use strain law enforcement as they struggle to respond to the increased criminal activity associated with the substance. Drug-related violent behavior often follows close behind, creating an even more dangerous atmosphere.

Meth also has a direct impact on public health. The following effects multiply when meth use is in large quantities:

  • Overdose deaths
  • Surging cases of HIV and Hepatitis B and C infections
  • Illnesses related to illicit drug use 

Other Harmful Effects of Meth Use

Aside from the consequences above, meth also impacts the following areas:5

Schools

The presence of illegal drugs, particularly meth, is correlated with various signs of school violence. These signs include:

  • Being absent from school due to feeling unsafe
  • Facing threats or injuries
  • Carrying weapons
  • Experiencing property theft or damage
  • Engaging in physical fights

Families

Meth use increases domestic violence and coercion within relationships, affecting children. It's a pivotal contributor to child abuse, neglect, and the need for children to leave their homes for their welfare.

Housing

Neighborhoods suffer from the devastating effects of systemic violence, meth trafficking, and dealing. The production of meth also leads to contaminating surrounding properties with toxic waste and chemicals.

Businesses 

Increased meth use in the workplace leads to:

  • Absenteeism
  • Abuse of others
  • A rise in accidents
  • Greatly decreased productivity due to health-related issues

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How Is the Meth Crisis Being Addressed?

To address the meth crisis, law enforcement, and other agencies have implemented various strategies.

These strategies include:

Supply-Side Measures

These include the interception of drug shipments and drug traffickers, meth lab seizures, and increased border security.

Demand-Side Strategies

These focus on rehabilitation, education, prevention, and outreach programs to reduce the demand for methamphetamine.

Primary Care Initiatives

Healthcare providers use motivational interviewing, harm reduction techniques, and collaboration with addiction medicine specialists to support people with addiction.

Regulatory Controls

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has enacted regulations on the ingredients used to make meth, such as pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Restricting access to these drugs is an effective way of limiting the production and use of methamphetamine.

Law Enforcement

Aside from being the first line of defense against the production and sale of meth, police forces and state authorities also implement community-based prevention programs. These seek to create awareness and discourage drug use among youth in particular.

Are These Measures Effective in Combating the Meth Crisis?

The effectiveness of these measures will depend on their implementation. In many cases, they've had a positive impact in reducing the use and availability of meth in some areas.

Increased law enforcement efforts have resulted in more arrests and disrupted those chains.7 Meanwhile, heightened access to healthcare services has enabled those with addiction to seek help and rehabilitation.8

Reducing the demand for meth is also essential in tackling the crisis. Prevention and awareness initiatives are key in this regard, as they help to discourage substance use among young people.9

Such initiatives include educating the public on the dangers of drug use and providing resources to those seeking help. The challenge is ensuring such measures are implemented in all meth capitals nationwide. 

Common Questions About Meth Capitals

How Big Is the Meth Problem?

In 2021, about 2.5 million (0.9% of the population) people aged 12+ reported using methamphetamine in 2020. 

In 2022, usage rates among students show that 0.5% of 12th graders, 0.3% of 10th graders, and 0.2% of 8th graders used meth in 2021. 

In recent data last year, approximately 32,537 drug users died, mostly due to meth-related causes.4

What Is The Meth Capital of the World?

Australia leads the world in methamphetamine use, surpassing 24 other countries' consumption rates. The drug is most prevalent in Perth among urban areas, while regional NSW has the highest usage in rural areas.

This information comes from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's latest report, which includes nations from Asia, Europe, and Oceania on its list.11

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Summary

Meth use has reached crisis levels in many cities throughout the U.S. The consequences of addiction, violence, crime, and poverty have a devastating impact on communities.

To address this problem effectively, law enforcement agencies are implementing various strategies to reduce drug supply and demand. 

Regulatory measures and primary care initiatives also impact community collaboration between local authorities, healthcare providers, and citizens.

Ultimately, the success of these measures will depend on their implementation in all meth capitals nationwide. The right action plan could help reduce the suffering that meth use causes and keep communities safe.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Methamphetamine DrugFacts.” U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.
  2. Study ranks Missouri #1 in meth manufacturing.” Columbia Daily Tribune, 2019.
  3. Meth Use by State 2023.” World Population Review, 2023.
  4. SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. “2021 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases.” National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2021.
  5. Meth & Heart Disease Fact Sheet.” Sacramento County, n.d.
  6. Dunn et al. “Addressing Methamphetamine Use in Primary Care: Provider Perspectives.” Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2023.
  7. U.S. Department of Justice. “National Clandestine Laboratory Register Data.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2022.
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “CHAPTER 7 VISION FOR THE FUTURE: A PUBLIC HEALTH APPROACH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016.
  9. Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. “Substance Abuse Prevention.” Youth.Gov, n.d.
  10. What is the scope of methamphetamine use in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  11. McPhee, E. “Australia is now officially the meth capital of the world - as the city with the most users is revealed.” U.K. Daily Mail, 2022.

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