Increasing Meth Use Overlooked Because of Opioids
Author: Justin Mckibben
The opioid epidemic has cast a long shadow over the country as overdose and death rates continue to climb and new, more deadly drugs have found their way into the illicit drug market. Because of the widespread devastation caused by opioids the vast majority of resources and efforts have been focused in om heroin and painkiller abuse. But in the shadow of the opioid epidemic, another ill-fated outbreak has been spreading that may prove to be a terrible threat: Meth use.
Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant with a collection of aliases:
- Crystal meth
While everyone has been worrying about opioids (for good reason) we have underestimated a growing crisis of a different kind. Meth use is reaching new heights, and experts expect it will continue to get worse if it continues to go unchecked.
Rising Rates of Meth Use
Meth abuse has risen 30% since 2014!
Based on numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Between 2010 and 2015, regular use of meth increased from three percent of the population to four percent.
- 3,700 Americans died from drug overdoses involving methamphetamine in 2014. That makes for twice as many people who died from meth abuse in 2010.
- American deaths related to methamphetamine in 2015 jumped to nearly 4,900
Federal officials have at least learned from the hard history we now have with the opioid epidemic. If the trend of overdose and death rates is to continue with methamphetamine, then officials believe meth use will get worse before it gets better, just like opioids.
The Media and Meth Use
One big reason many think meth abuse is making a comeback is because of how the supply has changed. Once upon a time, when meth abuse was first on the rise, a huge factor to the problem was that meth lab explosions were catching the attention of the media and therefore becoming a mainstream issue. In the 1990s as more of these stories hit the headlines, people started paying more attention.
After all the public attention forced federal and state laws to take action the sale of over-the-counter cold medicine used to cook meth in most home labs became restricted. This shift in the culture by the media and government made US meth labs increasingly rare. Thus, those big meth lab explosions stopped making headlines and people started to forget.
So of course, out of sight out of mind. People stopped hearing about American meth labs, and so most assumed with less labs there would be less meth abuse.
However, this is not the case. Just because Americans didn’t have the means to cook meth doesn’t mean the industry died out. Meth abuse is still alive and thriving. Now the supply is coming from Mexico, instead of being home-made.
Meth Supply from Mexico
According to the DEA, the majority of meth is smuggled across the Southwest border. From south of the border, meth travels into states such as:
- New Mexico
From these states the drug makes its way into others, including:
Basically, the south is swimming in the stuff.
Street pricing for meth is fairly low. On top of that, the purity of the meth is high, making it much more appealing than the risk of cooking your own at home.
Some areas are being hit particularly hard with this surge in meth use.
- Oklahoma saw 271 overdose deaths in 2015
- Oklahoma saw 328 overdose deaths in 2016
- This yearly death toll from meth has outgrown the number of deaths from prescription painkillers.
- In 2005 around 6,700 individuals were admitted for meth treatment in Minnesota
- In 2016 the number of people in Minnesota admitted for meth treatment hiked up to 11,600
Experts have noted that meth abuse is gradually making its way out of the trailer parks and rural areas and into inner cities. Like when opioid abuse became more prominent after moving from cities and rural areas into middle-American suburbia.
Be Warned: Meth Use is Very Dangerous
Because of the nature of this stimulant, the drug has a long list of drastic and damaging effects on the body and the mind. Some side-effects of meth include:
- Skin lesions
- Rotting teeth
- Violent behavior
- Auditory hallucinations
- Mood disturbances
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
Math use often causes a sense of elation and hypervigilance. Given the extreme effects of this stimulant, meth use can cause individuals to binge on the drug for days without eating or sleeping. This can ultimately lead to paranoid and aggressive behavior.
Overdose with Meth Use
Meth use is associated with a lower potential for overdose than opioids, which directly impact the respiratory system. However, meth use can lead to overdose.
Methamphetamine related death is usually caused by stroke or heart attack. When using the drug the body suffers from over-stimulation and can quickly overheat. While death from meth overdose may not be as sudden as with opioid overdoses, users eventually die from long-term meth use that causes in organ failure. The problem is that in most cases these deaths are typically not included in statistics on overdoses.
Can We Keep Up with Dual-Epidemics?
While meth use has not reached the disastrous numbers the opioid crisis has, it is still safe to say the nation may soon be faced with another very real epidemic. Can we keep up with two major drug surges at once?
On top of the already overwhelming opioid crisis, officials are now faced with a potential meth epidemic. Director Kimberly Johnson of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) pointed out that overall drug use has far outpaced the growth in the addiction treatment workforce already.
There is fear that trying to simultaneously fight dual-epidemics with meth use and opioids will put a grievous strain the country’s already ailing healthcare system. Director Johnson also states,
“I don’t think what we’ve done to scale up access to treatment for opioid disorders is going to be that helpful for methamphetamines.”
This is especially important to keep in mind, because with fighting different addictions, individuals should have access to personalized recovery plans. That means that addiction treatment providers will have to focus on more personalized and specific strategies to combat meth use.
It is very possible that very soon the country will be burning the candle at both ends when it comes to fighting substance use disorder across America. We will have to stay the course with battling opioids, while also keeping a close watch for a meth epidemic that may be on the horizon.
Safe and effective treatment programs are ready to contribute in facing these issues. Personalized holistic treatment is particularly effective because individuals can develop a personal recovery plan that provides opportunities to address every aspect of addiction. Our facilities take pride in offering comprehensive and innovative treatment, and we hope more people will be willing to seek help before this epidemic gets worse.
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