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Methamphetamine has been available for decades, but between 1993 and 2003, the number of people seeking treatment for meth addiction quadrupled. What's going on?
To start with, meth can be readily made using commonly available materials including cough medications. This means that meth addicts -- who once tended to be white, blue-collar males, but now increasingly include white-collar workers, young "ravers," gay men in urban settings, and rural teens -- often make their own supplies or trade in small, local groups. While some meth is imported by drug cartels, stopping this trade will not stop the demand for, and use of, the drug.
Increasingly, the drug is injected rather than smoked, snorted or taken in pill form, which provides a more intense euphoric experience, but also exposes users to greater risks of infection and unsafe sexual behavior. In addition, consumption of stronger forms of the drug may snare more casual users into addictive patterns.