Although news on opioid abuse and overdoses has been dominating the media recently, if you’d thought that meth use or methamphetamine use and addiction had gone away, you’d be wrong.
It is true that compared opioids, meth destroys lives at a slower pace, mainly because it isn’t responsible for nearly as many overdose deaths. However, many health officials and those in law enforcement believe the scourge isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and that ultimately it will overtake the U.S. just as opioids have done.
And unlike opioids, there is no proven medication-assisted treatment for meth, such as replacement therapy. Indeed, some states are battling both crises at the same time.
For example, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel recently ordered a study of meth use in the state, and found that use had climbed at least 250% since 2011, and fears that the state is “entering another full-blown epidemic with meth.”
In fact, according to the Wisconsin Statewide Information Center, meth use has more than tripled in the last decade, especially in rural areas.
Also, meth is making a big comeback in Ohio, one of the states also hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. Reports suggest similar trends are occurring in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
Meth addiction has been a major problem in the U.S. for decades. But recent changes in production, potency, and affordability have further increased availability in many communities. And confiscating and imprisoning dealers doesn’t appear to be helping curb demand. While there is demand, more labs and traffickers will continue to rise out of the ashes of others.
And well, some say the road to hell is paved with good intentions – henceforth, enter the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act. This action in 2006 placed a control on over-the-counter cold medications used by local manufacturers to cook methamphetamine, resulting in a huge drop in the number of U.S. meth labs after this act was established.
Indeed, federal data also revealed a decline in meth use, while confiscations, arrests, etc. also decreased. However, instead of local labs, Mexican cartels then initiated a takeover of the meth trade, resulting in complex networks that have infiltrated American communities.
These “superlabs” began making inexpensive, but highly pure meth that was produced en masse, shipped over the border, and picked up by smaller-time dealers in the U.S. Naturally, use of meth began to increase again in the country.
As meth from Mexico saturated the marked, the price continued to fall for the next few years, according to the DEA. But simultaneously, its potency increased to almost 100%. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of meth users increased from 314,000 in 2008 to 569,000 in 2014.
During this time, deadly overdoses related to methamphetamine more than-than doubled (2010-2014) according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Meanwhile, seizures of meth increased dramatically, from more 7,063 kilograms in 2006 to more than 44,000 in 2015, as reported by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Furthermore, people convicted and sent to federal prison for offenses related to meth have increased far beyond any drug, says the United States Sentencing Commission. In 2015, the highest proportion of federal drug offenders in more than half of U.S. states consisted of methamphetamine offenders.
Thus, these trends fly in the face of the 2006 act, as well as other U.S. drug policies. They reveal that a reduction in supply doesn’t reduce demand, and where there’s demand, there will be someone ready to profit from that demand.
The Consequences Of Meth Use
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term methamphetamine use, negative consequences of using meth include addiction, tolerance (users need to take more of the drug to achieve the same effect), difficulty feeling other pleasures, and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, fatigue, and intense cravings.
Chronic abusers may also present with confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, repetitive motor activity, cognitive and motor skill impairment, memory loss, changes in brain functioning, and aggressive or violent behavior.
In severe cases, they may exhibit psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. Psychotic symptoms may persist for months or years after drug cessation. Of note, however, some of the neurobiological effects of long-term meth use may be at least partially reversible.
In addition to these effects, users may also suffer from extreme weight loss, tooth decay and tooth loss, and skin sores.
Faces Of Methamphetamine
Recently, WWLP in Wisconsin published an article and video about meth addiction stories and three former addicts who are now dedicating their lives to assisting others who are addicted.
Brian Cole, now a pastor who shares his story with others about methamphetamine addiction, told WWLP:
“It’s called the one hit wonder for a reason. You take one hit, and you wonder what happened to the next 30 years of your life if you live that long.”