Community Impact from Methamphetamine

Sometimes people forget that methamphetamine hurts not only individuals, but families, neighborhoods and entire communities as well. You might not be using methamphetamine or know anyone who is - but that doesn't mean it's not having an effect on you.

A methamphetamine lab can operate unnoticed in a neighborhood for years, causing serious health hazards to everyone around. Here are some ways that methamphetamine could find its way into your life even if you or a family member doesn't use the drug:

Environmental Harm

For each pound of methamphetamine produced, five to six pounds of hazardous waste are generated, posing immediate and long-term environmental health risks. The chemicals used to make methamphetamine are toxic, and the lab operators routinely dump waste into streams, rivers, fields, backyards and sewage systems, which can in turn contaminate water resources for humans and animals.
Also, the poisonous vapors produced during cooking permeate the halls and carpets of houses and buildings, often making them uninhabitable. Cleaning up these sites requires specialized training and costs an average of $2,000-$4,000 per site in funds that come out of the already-strained budgets of state police, local police, or property owners. Property owners are often held liable for the cost of the cleanup, so if rental landlords find that their tenant has been operating a methamphetamine lab on or in their property, or if landowners find clandestine labs on their property, they could face devastating financial issues.

Along with the selling of the drug, methamphetamine labs can breed crime, including burglaries, thefts and even murder. Both teenagers and adults addicted to the drug and who have no income to pay for their habit, may steal valuables from their own homes or even their friends' homes.
High on methamphetamine, there's no telling what a person would do if provoked - people have been killed for not owing up to a drug payment or coming through on a transaction. This type of crime requires a great deal of attention from the police, for which a town may not have the funding or the resources to spare.

Children are at Risk

Hundreds of children are neglected every year after living with parents who are methamphetamine "cooks." Children who reside in or near methamphetamine labs are at a great risk of being harmed in such a toxic environment, due to the noxious fumes which can cause brain damage and the explosive elements that go into making the drug.
Cooking methamphetamine is extremely dangerous, and labs often catch on fire and explode. A child living inside could overdose from methamphetamine left out by parents, suffer from attachment disorders or behavioral problems, be malnourished, physically or sexually abused and/or burned or fatally injured from a fire or explosion.

Orphaned Children

Nationally, the number of foster care children has been rising rapidly in states that have been hit hard by methamphetamine. Children are taken from their parents who may have been using or making methamphetamine, and placed in foster homes, crowding an already overflowing system which has limited resources.
It may become increasingly difficult to attract foster parents for these children because they often have many behavior problems. For example, they can't sleep at night since they are used to sleeping on a floor and they often have not been toilet trained due to the neglectful nature of their upbringing.

Hepatitis, HIV, AIDS

While using methamphetamine, users can feel hypersexual and uninhibited, often forgetting to use protection. Since methamphetamine can be administered intravenously, some users share dirty needles. These acts can lead to the transmission of serious and deadly diseases, such as hepatitis, HIV and AIDS.

Hospitals and Burn Units

Methamphetamine production is a dangerous and illegal business that can take place in living spaces - from kitchens to basements to hotel rooms to cars. The materials that are used to produce the drug are toxic and often flammable and any mistakes can result in an explosion or injury not only to the methamphetamine "cook", but their families as well. These chemical burns are tough to treat and are extremely expensive. Care in these specialized units may be uncompensated, placing a great financial strain on hospitals and state medical programs.


Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug and requires intense, long-term treatment. Sometimes addicts don't live long enough to complete treatment. Recovery often consists of frequent backsliding into methamphetamine use. Treatment costs may be uncompensated and can place a huge burden on the state's medical program.
Adapted from Partnership for a Drug-Free America 2005

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