NIH Press Release
National Institute on Drug Abuse

Wednesday, Nov. 27, 1996

Beverly Jackson
(415)-896-1600 or (415)-476-8050
Mona Brown
(301) 443-6245

Methamphetamine Abuse, Consequences and Solutions
Topics of Regional Conference in San Francisco

With reports of methamphetamine use on the rise in San Francisco and other cities in the West, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will hold a two-day conference in San Francisco on methamphetamine abuse, its resulting consequences, and solutions to the problem. The conference will be held on Monday, December 2 and Tuesday, December 3 at the Laurel Heights Conference Center of the University of California-San Francisco.

NIDA Director, Dr. Alan Leshner, will convene "Methamphetamine: Abuse, Treatment, and Prevention," a regional symposium on the issues. NIDA will bring together scientists, civic leaders, policy makers, public officials and drug abuse treatment and prevention professionals to discuss current data and ways to explore and improve the state and local response to methamphetamine abuse.

In discussing the need for a western regional methamphetamine meeting, Dr. Leshner explained, "We know from research that methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive stimulant associated with serious health conditions, including brain damage, memory loss, psychosis, heart damage, hepatitis and HIV transmission. One of NIDA's most important goals is to translate what we know from research to help the public better understand methamphetamine abuse and to develop effective strategies for its prevention and treatment."

Commonly know as "speed," "meth," and "chalk," methamphetamines are taken orally, intranasally ("snorted") or are injected. In a form that is smoked, methamphetamines are commonly referred to as "ice," "crystal," "crank," and "glass." Used medicinally, methamphetamines have been prescribed to treat obesity, narcolepsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. When abused, methamphetamines cause users to experience intense sensations ("rushes" or "flashes") that are reported to be extremely pleasurable but present a host of negative health consequences. In addition, methamphetamine use is associated with deteriorated lifestyles, violent and criminal behavior and paranoid psychosis.

According to the latest statistics from NIDA's Community Epidemiology Work Group, several cities in the West show increases in methamphetamine abuse. In San Francisco the number of deaths related to methamphetamine use rose 22 percent during 1994 over deaths in 1993 and the number of methamphetamine related hospital emergency room visits increased 122 percent. In Los Angeles there is a significant methamphetamine abuse problem in the Hispanic community, where investigators report that methamphetamine-related deaths increased from less than 1 percent in 1993 to 19 percent in 1995. Other cities in the West reporting increases in methamphetamine abuse are Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas, and San Diego.

Topics to be addressed at the NIDA Conference include: national and regional trends in methamphetamine use; concerns of special populations (gay men; use in rural areas; and youth); basic pharmacology; consequences of use; prevention and treatment. Speakers joining Dr. Leshner include: Reese Jones, M.D., UCSF School of Medicine; Douglas Anglin, Ph.D., UCLA; David Smith, M.D.; Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, San Francisco; Thomas Coates, Ph.D., UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies; Richard Clayton, Ph.D., Center for Prevention Research, University of Kentucky and others.

NIDA, an Institute of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85% of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute also carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Further information on NIDA research can be found on the NIDA Home Page at

Dr. Leshner and other speakers will be available for interviews prior to and during the conference. For interviews and coverage information, call the NIDA Press Office at (301) 443-6245.