The goal of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is to answer that question, and the 2010 results are out now.
For newcomers to this interesting survey, it compiles responses from over 60,000 interviews with Americans to gauge how many people are using and/or abusing alcohol, tobacco, and prescription and non-prescription drugs. For drug sentencing law nerds, it's a fun read on a rainy afternoon.
Here's a USA Today article about the latest survey's findings. Good news: methamphetamine use is down. Not so good news: marijuana use -- and use of other illicit drugs -- is up.
Wait a minute...aren't mandatory minimum sentences supposed to lower drug use?
Fluctuations in drug usage (and popularity) can be mysterious. While some might like to say our tough meth sentencing laws are doing the trick, a director at the agency that conducts the NSDUH offers another explanation entirely:
Meanwhile, methamphetamine use, which raced across the USA for a decade, has declined sharply. The number of past-month users fell from 731,000 in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010.
Since methamphetamine emerged as a problem drug in 2001, states have outlawed or restricted the sale of ingredients used to concoct homemade meth, such as pseudoephedrine found in cold medicines such as Sudafed.
"We've seen better attention for law enforcement and policy changes. You can't get all the Sudafed you want anymore," said Peter Delany, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at SAMHSA.Ahhh, so it's the fact that people can't waltz into a CVS and buy a crate of Sudafed anymore that explains it.
Note that he does not give the credit to mandatory sentencing laws for meth crimes.