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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Methamphetamine Use and Overdose in America

Nearly one year ago, we covered the topic of the return of methamphetamine use in America. At the time, we mentioned that opioids and opioid-related overdoses overshadowed all other life-threatening narcotics. We want to report that the new meth crisis is being addressed. Unfortunately, matters are seemingly worse than initially thought.

As we pointed out last January, the methamphetamine being consumed today is far more dangerous than that of the early 2000s. Commonly referred to as "ice," today's meth is far more pure and exceedingly more potent than earlier iterations. "Homegrown" meth manufactured in clandestine American labs in the 1990s and 2000s pales in comparison to the methamphetamine being produced in Mexican super labs.

One of the significant problems with addressing meth use in America, aside from price and abundant availability, is treating stimulant use disorder. There are no medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating meth addiction. What's more, there are not any medications that can reverse a meth overdose, like there are with opioids.

An opioid overdose can be combated with naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse the deadly symptoms of opioid toxicity. If administered in a timely fashion, naloxone or Narcan can save a person's life. Not so when it comes to methamphetamine, which may account for a staggering rise in methamphetamine overdose deaths in recent years.

In fact, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that there were about 13,000 deaths involving meth nationwide in 2018, The New York Times reports. Moreover, since late 2018, methamphetamine has been involved in more fatalities than opioid painkillers. The CDC reports that in 14 of the 35 states that report monthly overdose death data to the federal government, the potent stimulant was involved in more deaths than fentanyl.

Methamphetamine is Potent, Addictive, and Treatable

Methamphetamine can cause irreversible damage to vital organs. The drug's high potency makes the drug extraordinarily addictive and places men and women at risk of relapse. Moreover, there are no medications for meth addiction detox and treatment like those for opioid use disorder (i.e., Suboxone or buprenorphine).

Another concerning element to the meth scourge in America is that most of the federal funds for treating addiction are earmarked for opioid use disorder. As such, people with stimulant use disorders may have difficulty accessing evidence-based treatment, according to the article. Lawmakers will have to confront the meth scourge, and sooner rather than later hopefully.

"We know there is funding coming in for the opioid problem," said Mimi Tarrasch, the chief officer of an alternative sentencing program in Tulsa. "But what I see, and what our community continues to see, is really a lot of addiction to methamphetamine."

Meth impacts the central nervous system, leading to:
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Damage to the Heart, Brain, and other Vital Organs
"Basically your blood pressure goes up so high that you can rupture your aorta or have a stroke," said Dr. Andrew Herring, an emergency medicine and addiction specialist in Oakland, California.

Regularly, overdose deaths involving meth also includes opioids; people often mix both drugs to achieve drug synergy. Combining two drugs enhances the euphoria caused by each individual substance. Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, says that meth-related deaths may be on the rise because more people are using meth, the article reports. Last month, Dr. Ciccarone spoke at a conference on stimulant abuse called: "Developing Novel Therapies for Stimulant Use Disorder." At the workshop, he said that it's hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the surge in meth-related deaths.

"It's embarrassing that we don't have the answer at our fingertips and we should," Dr. Ciccarone said. 

SLO County Stimulant Use Disorder Treatment

Even though scientists have yet to create a drug for helping people recover from stimulant use disorder, methamphetamine addiction is a treatable condition. With professional assistance and evidence-based therapies, recovery is possible for people living with a stimulant use disorder.

Please contact The Haven at Pismo to learn more about our programs and unique treatment path. Our team of highly trained addiction specialists can help you renew to your best today.