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Methamphetamine Ads Need to Make an Impact

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Crystal meth

Research shows crystal meth use is still a problem in the United States, although adolescent use peaked in the late 1990s.[1] Around 0.9 million Americans are current users of methamphetamines, including the drug’s most dangerous form: crystal meth.[2]

With strong, addictive and long-term effects, methamphetamine use destroys the health and well being of young people around the world. While surveys indicate fewer people are using the drug, risk groups need good information about why crystal meth is so dangerous. In response to years of growing meth use, several anti-drug agencies developed graphic ad campaigns to educate people about the drug’s harmful effects. More people age 26 and older reported using meth (757,000) in the past month vs. people age 18 to 25 (128,000). Around 13,000 adolescents reported past month use.2

Messages about drug use must walk a fine line between offering accurate information and making a drug seem so dangerous that some people see the ad as ridiculous. The anti-meth advertising campaigns produced by the Montana Meth Project (MMP) in 2005 emphasize the unique physical effects of crystal meth, and its role in turning a healthy individual into a shadow of his former self. Other states and organizations modeled ad programs on the MMP, but later research shows there may be a better use for drug education dollars.

Risk factors for crystal meth use align in some ways with other risk factors for drug use. Researchers who study drug use note addiction is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Young people are in the greatest danger because their developing brains are more sensitive to addictive substances, making them more likely to get addicted and giving the substances a greater effect on them. Maturing brains make adolescents more likely to take risks and make less complete judgments.[3]

Studies on crystal meth find young men who are white or Native American are most likely to use the drug. People, who live in the west or south, have also used other drugs (marijuana, cocaine).


[1] Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Miech, R. A., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2017). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2016: Overview, key findings on adolescent drug use. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Retrieved Mar. 7, 2017 from

[2] Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved Mar. 7, 2017 from

[3] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. Retrieved Mar. 12, 2017, from