Speed kills (but not as often as you think)

class=img_thumbleft>As anyone who reads the Strib, watches the TV news or listens to the pronouncements of their local legislators knows by now, methamphetamine is the deadliest drug Minnesotans have ever encountered. At this very moment, it is racing across the state like a prairie fire, leaving its victims hopelessly addicted and making all previous drug scourges look like petty vice.

Or not.

This week, the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit the Sentencing Project issued a fascinating, 44-page report entitled The Next Big Thing? Methamphetamine in the United States. Aggregating data from a vast array of sources, the report paints a picture of the meth problem starkly at odds with conventional wisdom. It begins with a rather startling assertion: from an acturial perspective, there really isn't much of a meth epidemic. According to the report, there were more first time meth users in the early 70s than there are today and, more recently, there has been a pronounced decline in use among at least one key demographic, teenagers.

Anyone with serious interest in the issue ought to check out the full document, but here are a few of the major conclusions:

Methamphetamine is among the least commonly used drugs. Only .2 percent of Americans are regular users of methamphetamine. Four times as many Americans use cocaine on a regular basis and 30 times as many use marijuana.

Rates of methamphetamine use have remained stable since 1999. The proporition of Americans who use methamphetamine on a monthly basis has hovered in the range of .2 to .3 percent between 1999 and 2004.

Rates of methamphetamine use by high school students have declined since 1999. The proportion of high school students who have ever used methamphetamine (lifetime prevelance rates) declined by 45 percent between 1999 and 2005, from 8.2 percent to 4.5 percent.

Methamphetamine use remains a rare occurence in most of the United States but exhibits higher rates in selected areas. Only 5 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine, compared with 30 percent for cocaine and 44 percent for marijuana.

Drug treatment has been demonstrated to be effective in combating methamphetamine addiction... Methamphetamine abuse has generally been shown to be as receptive to treatment as other addictive drugs.