Did Breaking Bad cause a spike in Meth-related crime?

It started with a tweet:

Total Meth Lab Incidents In The United States in 2012 by State… Blame Heisenberg… pic.twitter.com/sKubrnnahv

— Incredible Maps (@IncredibleMaps) April 10, 2014

which got me thinking - should we be blaming the makers of Breaking Bad for meth-related activity? It's raised the profile of meth higher than anything in popular culture before it, and even goes into a surprising amount of detail on how you might go about manufacturing it yourself. So, are 2012's meth statistics the fault of Vince Gilligan, AMC and Bryan Cranston?

In order to find out we need some historical data - which it turns out is available all the way back to 2004. And there it is, just above - showing a dramatic downtown of meth-related incidents until 2008, when it begins rising again, though never to previous levels.

How popular is Breaking Bad, anyway?

So, we've got our meth incident data. But what about Breaking Bad popularity? Conventional wisdom would state that viewing figures at the metric to look at. But Breaking Bad owes much of its success to people discovering it on Netflix long after the series first started. And they don't release viewing figures.

A better - while still imprecise - metric is using Google Trends data to see how many people were searching for Breaking Bad online. So let's take that search data and layer it on top of meth crime data to see how they compare.

So, while 2008 - 2010 actually do show a correlation, when Breaking Bad really hits its stride (and 2013 is bigger still) the number of meth crimes has actually decreased - so maybe Breaking Bad was one big PSA about the dangers of meth production? In any case, the answer to the initial question appears to be an emphatic "no".

With apologies to New Mexico

Still, this data is interesting. Take a look at the overall league tables of Meth problems - would you believe that New Mexico isn't anywhere near the top? While the show was originally supposed to be set in California, the best place it could have actually been set is Missouri, according to the data.