Friday, March 10, 2006

How Many Teenagers Die of Methamphetamine a Year?

From the Wall Street Journal:
There is considerable debate over the dangers posed by methamphetamine, but no one thinks hundreds of thousands of teenagers and twentysomethings are dying each year from use of the illegal stimulant.

Yet that's what you'd conclude if you went by numbers published -- then later retracted -- from a Tennessee anti-meth campaign that continue to be cited by advocates.

A site the state's attorneys general produced last year called "Meth is Death" claimed that "one in seven high school students will try meth,"; "99% of first-time meth users are hooked after just the first try"; "only 5% of meth addicts are able to kick it and stay away"; and "the life expectancy of a habitual meth user is only five years."

Connect those numbers, as Reason blogger Jacob Sullum did, and you'll arrive at a troubling outcome. The Census Bureau counted more than 20 million Americans in 2004 who were between age 15 and 19. Using the state's numbers, one in seven of those teenagers, or three million, will try meth; 99% of those will get hooked; and 95% of those who are hooked won't be able to kick the habit and thus will die. Mr. Sullum did the math, and concluded: "We are talking about hundreds of thousands of deaths a year."
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