U.S. users of crystal methamphetamine tend to be young, poor, white men often with an incarcerated father, according to a study suggesting that its use may be more common than previously estimated.
The findings, published on Friday in the journal Addiction, were based on interviews with 14,322 people ages 18 to 26 in 2001 and 2002. The study found that 2.8 percent of those surveyed said they used the drug, often called “crystal meth,” in the past year, and 1.3 percent used it in the past month.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.
NIDA officials said the rate seen in this study is higher than other studies have found. For example, NIDA said a 2004 survey it conducted showed use among Americans ages 19 to 28 at 1.5 percent in the previous year.
The survey results painted a portrait of these drug users.
They were heavily white rather than black or Hispanic, although Native Americans had very high usage rates, the study found. They tended to be poor, also use alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs. Male users were more likely to have had incarcerated fathers.
Crystal methamphetamine is a form of methamphetamine, an addictive synthetic stimulant. It resembles small fragments of glass and is typically smoked using glass pipes.
The study found most people who used it did so only occasionally, with just a small proportion of frequent users.
Its use was associated with violent behavior, drug selling and arrests. Particularly among women, its use also was associated with risky sexual behavior such as unprotected sex.
The drug was used more often in the Midwest, South and especially the West, and less often in Northeastern states.
“The study showed not only greater use of crystal methamphetamine, it also suggests the drug is associated with risky and antisocial behaviors, including other illicit drug use,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow said in a statement.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.