NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 18, 2006

Methamphetamine accounts for more emergency room (ER) visits than any other drug, a survey released today by the National Association of Counties finds.

In the survey of 200 hospitals run or funded by counties in 39 states and Washington, D.C., 47 percent said methamphetamine is the top illicit drug involved in emergency room visits. Another 16 percent said marijuana, and 15 percent said cocaine.

"This is a national problem," association spokesman Tom Goodman says. "The costs of methamphetamine are placing a great strain on county governments."

  • Of the hospitals surveyed, 73 percent said emergency room cases involving meth have increased over the past five years.
  • Some 56 percent said hospital costs have risen because of the treatment of meth patients.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that can be injected, snorted, smoked or swallowed. Most methamphetamine is manufactured in Mexican labs and smuggled into the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration says. The drug also can be cooked in home labs using cold pills and other ingredients easily purchased.

A separate survey by the counties' association of 200 state and county treatment program directors in 35 states and the District of Columbia found that 69 percent reported an increased number of people seeking treatment for meth use.

The problem appears to be particularly acute in the Midwest, where meth's toll in rural communities is well documented. In Nebraska, for example, nearly every hospital surveyed said up to 10 percent of ER cases involved meth.

Source: Donna Leinwand, "Meth cases put strain on ERs; Leading cause of drug-related visits," USA Today, January 18, 2006.


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