Is There Another Drug Use Tragedy Growing in The Shadows of The Opioid Crisis?
Treatment systems, law enforcement personnel, hospital emergency rooms, first-responders, and coroners are all back on their heels, struggling to contain and reverse the worst opioid epidemic our country has ever seen. It’s like turning around a giant ocean-liner: a likely continuation of the present direction before an overall reversal occurs. There is every reason to believe with confidence that we will respond effectively and definitively to this national tragedy, as we have with the public health crises caused by tobacco and AIDS. When we focus as a nation, we accomplish great things.
But as we devote more and more resources to this present challenge, there is yet another disturbing trend developing — the increasing use of methamphetamine, an extremely potent psychostimulant with its own tragic consequences.
Here are some recent developments:
- Seizures of methamphetamine increased from approximately 5,000 kilograms in 2002 to over 40,000 kilograms in 2015 (SAMHSA).
- The estimated number of methamphetamine users grew from approximately 314,000 in 2008 to 569,000 in 2014 (National Center for Health Statistics).
- Overdose fatalities rose 30% between 2014 and 2015.
- Data indicates methamphetamine use is migrating from primarily rural to inner-city areas, and that people with heroin use disorder are using methamphetamine more frequently.
What is it that is causing an increase in use?
It now appears that International Criminal Organizations (ICOs) in Mexico have noted an unmet demand for methamphetamine here in the USA beginning in 2006.
In 2006 the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act went into effect, placing very tight controls on over-the-counter sales of pharmaceutical medications containing pseudoephedrine. This chemical was a necessary ingredient used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine in “meth-labs.” This legislation was largely successful, and the supply of illicit methamphetamine in our country dropped precipitously, resulting in unmet user demand.
Since then, Mexican ICOs have been flooding the American drug-market with near 100% pure methamphetamine at record-low prices, the very same way they saturated our communities with high-grade, low-priced heroin and of late, with the most lethal of opioids, fentanyl.
Here are some suggestions on proactive measures we can take to prevent yet another tragic epidemic in our country:
Parents/families and educators:
- Educate ourselves, our clients, the general-public and our middle and high school-age students regarding the incredible addiction potential of methamphetamine.
- Talk to our children heart-to-heart regarding the dangers of this and other drugs. Always remain available to talk.
- Support local, state, and national political leaders who demonstrate their commitment to addressing drug use in America.
- Report suspicious local activity to proper officials.
For health practitioners:
- Interview at-risk patients regarding possible use of this drug: people with a history of drug-use, especially psychostimulants or opioids, and those with depression, PTSD or ADHD.
Together we can keep our eyes open for early warning signs in our community, our schools, our families and our medical practices.
The opioid crisis crept up on us and exploded like the proverbial “mushroom cloud.” We can prevent future drug-use related epidemics.
Let’s talk to each other, share information and act quickly and definitively as individuals and as a culture at the first sign of another drug-related public health threat in our communities.