Methamphetamine (MA) is a potent stimulant that is readily available. Its effects are similar to cocaine, but the drug has a profile associated with increased acute and chronic toxicities. The objective of this systematic review was to identify and synthesize literature on risk factors that are associated with MA use among youth.
More than 40 electronic databases, websites, and key journals/meeting abstracts were searched. We included studies that compared children and adolescents (≤ 18 years) who used MA to those who did not. One reviewer extracted the data and a second checked for completeness and accuracy. For discrete risk factors, odds ratios (OR) were calculated and when appropriate, a pooled OR with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) was calculated. For continuous risk factors, mean difference and 95% CI were calculated and when appropriate, a weighted mean difference (WMD) and 95% CI was calculated. Results were presented separately by comparison group: low-risk (no previous drug abuse) and high-risk children (reported previous drug abuse or were recruited from a juvenile detention center).
Twelve studies were included. Among low-risk youth, factors associated with MA use were: history of heroin/opiate use (OR = 29.3; 95% CI: 9.8–87.8), family history of drug use (OR = 4.7; 95% CI: 2.8–7.9), risky sexual behavior (OR = 2.79; 95% CI: 2.25, 3.46) and some psychiatric disorders. History of alcohol use and smoking were also significantly associated with MA use. Among high-risk youth, factors associated with MA use were: family history of crime (OR = 2.0; 95% CI: 1.2–3.3), family history of drug use (OR = 4.7; 95% CI: 2.8–7.9), family history of alcohol abuse (OR = 3.2; 95% CI: 1.8–5.6), and psychiatric treatment (OR = 6.8; 95% CI: 3.6–12.9). Female sex was also significantly associated with MA use.
Among low-risk youth, a history of engaging in a variety of risky behaviors was significantly associated with MA use. A history of a psychiatric disorder was a risk factor for MA for both low- and high-risk youth. Family environment was also associated with MA use. Many of the included studies were cross-sectional making it difficult to assess causation. Future research should utilize prospective study designs so that temporal relationships between risk factors and MA use can be established.