U.S. Department of Justice
Drug Enforcement Administration
Methamphetamine Situation in the United States
Methamphetamine trafficking and abuse in the United States have been on the rise over
the past few years, as indicated by investigative, seizure, price, purity, and abuse data.
As a result, this drug is having a devastating impact in many communities across the
nation. Although more common in western areas of the country, this impact increasingly is
being felt in areas not previously familiar with the harmful effects of this powerful
Clandestine production accounts for almost all of the methamphetamine trafficked and abused in the United States. The illicit manufacture of methamphetamine can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but is produced most commonly using the ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction method. Large-scale production of methamphetamine using this method is dependent on ready access to bulk quantities of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. During the past two years, several bulk ephedrine seizures destined for Mexico focused attention on the magnitude of ephedrine acquisition by organized crime drug groups operating from Mexico and in the United States, and set in motion an effort to focus international attention on the ephedrine diversion problem and to take action to prevent such diversion.
Drug law enforcement efforts against clandestine methamphetamine producers constitute a "cat and mouse" game between efforts to cut off chemical supplies and efforts to obtain them from non-regulated sources. Past experience has demonstrated that methamphetamine traffickers are relentless, flexible, and creative in finding new ways to obtain chemicals by evading the network of international controls that has been established. The Federal Government currently is preparing regulations to further reduce the diversion of pharmaceutical products containing chemicals, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, that can be used to produce illegal drugs. It has consulted with corporations within the pharmaceutical industry to develop a solution to the diversion problem that does not unduly restrict the availability of these chemicals for legitimate use.
Domestically, large-scale production of methamphetamine is centered in California. In addition, methamphetamine increasingly is produced in Mexico and smuggled into the United States. Methamphetamine laboratory operators often are well-armed, and their laboratories occasionally are booby-trapped and equipped with scanning devices employed as security precautions. Weaponry, ranging from single firearms to arsenals of high-powered weapons and explosives, are commonly found at laboratory sites. Not only are methamphetamine laboratories used to manufacture illegal, often deadly drugs, but the clandestine nature of the manufacturing process and the presence of ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic chemicals at the sites have resulted in explosions, fires, toxic fumes, and irreparable damage to human health and to the environment.
Traditionally, the suppliers of methamphetamine throughout the United States have been outlaw motorcycle gangs and numerous other independent trafficking groups. Although these groups continue to produce and distribute methamphetamine, organized crime drug groups operating from Mexico currently dominate wholesale methamphetamine trafficking in the United States for several reasons: these organizations established access to wholesale ephedrine sources of supply on the international market; these organizations are producing unprecedented quantities of high-purity methamphetamine on a regular basis; and, they already control well-established cocaine, heroin, and marijuana distribution networks throughout the western United States, enabling them to supply methamphetamine to a large retail level market. Their expansion into the methamphetamine trade has added a new dimension to their role in the U.S. drug market and has redefined the methamphetamine problem in the United States. Presently, these organizations are poised to supply methamphetamine to the rest of the country in response to any increases in demand.