How will it end?
Methamphetamine was already a serious enough issue in the U.S. in the early 2000s, with years featuring more than 20,000 incidents nationwide. Then, “Breaking Bad” came along, spiking the nation’s collective interest in meth for the last five years.
But has the increased curiosity been during a time when meth use in the U.S. is on the decline? Spoiler: The answer is yes. Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that there had been 12,694 meth lab incidents in 2012. The number represented a drop-off from the 13,390 incidents in 2011 and an even bigger decrease from the 15,196 incidents from 2010.
Still, a small number of states continue to make up the core for reported methamphetamine-related incidents in the last five years. The king of this group is Missouri, a state that has led the U.S. in meth lab incidents every year except one since 2003, according to the Associated Press. In the fiscal year 2012, Missouri's drug task forces made 9,000 arrests in 21,000 cases related to methamphetamine, according to KSMU.
And there are bigger issues for the state moving forward. With federal funding for Missouri's regional drug task force hitting an all-time low this year, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon carved out $3 million in next year's budget. But there remains some uncertainty about how much funding will be available to help the state on the meth front after 2014.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull has seen Missouri’s meth problem boil up for some time now. The influx of meth into the state started to gain traction in the mid-90s, with more meth product coming from the West Coast. Since then, the issue has stayed in rural parts of Missouri that are close enough to metropolitan areas such as St. Louis and Kansas City, Hull said. The spike in meth-related crimes has also seeped to neighboring states like Kentucky and Tennessee.
“We’ve been at the forefront of the battle against meth since that time,” Hull told America Tonight. He added: “Some people feel Missouri might have a very bad meth problem, but we look at it as us being very aggressive in looking for and seizing these labs.”
Even as “Breaking Bad” comes to an end, it’s vital to understand how far the U.S. has come in cutting down meth-related cases – and how far some states still have to go.
“It continues to be an ongoing problem that we deal with in Missouri on a daily and yearly basis,” said Hull, “and it’s something we’ll continue to do as long as it’s out there.”
Here are some of the most important numbers behind methamphetamine in the U.S. – before and during the era of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
Total number of reported methamphetamine lab incidents in the U.S. from 2004 to 2012, according to the DEA.
Total number of reported methamphetamine lab incidents in Missouri from 2004 to 2012, according to the DEA. During this time, Missouri has made up more than 14 percent of all meth arrests.
Reported methamphetamine incidents from January through June of this year. Missouri is second only to Indiana in reported meth incidents so far, but this year's rate has decreased compared with last year's rate.
The meth-related arrests made in Jefferson County, Mo., from 2008 to 2012, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Jefferson County leads all Missouri counties in meth-related arrests during this time. Last year, the 346 meth-related arrests in Jefferson County were estimated to be more than the total meth-related arrests of 41 states, according to the DEA. (Correction: An earlier photo showed the Capitol Building of Jefferson, Mo., which is not in Jefferson County, Mo.)
The number of meth-related incidents in Missouri in 2004, according to the DEA. The 2004 numbers represent the highest total of meth incidents in Missouri since that time.
15 percent and $1 million
The percentage of patients at the burn center at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis who are injured in meth lab fires, according to Dr. Michael Smock in a November 2012 interview with KJRH in Tulsa, Okla. According to KJRH, one patient in Smock's burn center who was recovering for more than 100 days from injuries suffered in a meth lab incident had a hospital bill of more than $1 million.
The number of meth incidents in Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky in 2012, which accounted for more than half of the total meth incidents nationwide.
The average number of high-school seniors in a class who will have tried methamphetamine in their lifetime, according to "Monitoring the Future: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs," a 2012 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
And for "Breaking Bad" fans:
The number of reported incidents in New Mexico between 2008 and 2012. "Breaking Bad" premiered in January 2008.
The number of people named "Walter White" who have been accused of making and distributing meth. In 2012, a man in Tuscaloosa, Ala., was accused of violating his probation in a meth manufacturing case. White was arrested in 2008 on multiple charges, including trafficking methamphetamine. He violated his probation in January 2012 after being arrested on the same charges in Bibb County, according to AL.com.