DENVER – Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, in his capacity as chairman of the state’s Methamphetamine Task Force, today released a nationwide study on the economic costs of meth use in the United States. The study, which was conducted by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, estimates that meth use in the United States costs in excess of $23 billion in direct, indirect, and intangible costs each year. Based on the study’s research model and current usage rates, methamphetamine abuse is estimated to cost the state of Colorado as much as $1.4 billion each year, including more than $73,000 for each dependent meth user.
Meth abuse in Colorado is considerably higher than in most other states, with meth treatment rates a full 2.3 times higher than would be expected given Colorado’s relatively small population. Meth-related property and violent crimes increased nearly twofold between 2000 and 2005 in Colorado. The RAND study estimates that $4.2 billion is spent annually to pay for meth-related crime and criminal justice intervention. Costs of family dysfunction and social services due to meth use are estimated at $900 million per year. Drug treatment and hospital care for meth addicts costs another $700 million annually. Loss of workplace productivity is estimated at approximately $650 million per year.
The state of Colorado ranks eighth among the 50 states in total meth use. It ranks among the top six states for identity theft, largely due to meth use. Seventy percent of Colorado counties report increased foster care placements due to meth.
The RAND study found meth use represents a 50 percent higher economic burden on society than prevalence rates suggest, meaning that meth creates societal costs proportionately higher than other illicit drugs.
“Meth is, without question, the most pernicious, the most harmful, and the most costly drug I have encountered during my three decades in law enforcement,” said Attorney General John Suthers. “Through the Meth Task Force, in partnership with the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, we have made great progress in combating this scourge, but as this study shows, there is still much work to be done. Accordingly, the State Meth Task Force will ask the Colorado General Assembly to extend the Task Force’s mission beyond its scheduled sunset in 2010.”
The RAND study represents the first time that the costs of methamphetamine abuse have been comprehensively analyzed on a national scale. It is based on information from 2005, the most recent year for which all necessary data has been compiled. The study was sponsored by the Meth Project Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to reducing first-time methamphetamine use. Its affiliate, the Colorado Meth Project, is a prevention program involving public service messaging, public policy, and community outreach. The Colorado Meth Project will launch a multimedia prevention campaign across the state this spring. Additional support for the study was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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