Recent growth in Methamphetamine overdose deaths is happening at rates that are shocking to me, and I was already completely convinced that opioids, meth, and alcohol make up well over 90% of serious substance use disorder cases in individuals in the United States. The number of people struggling with methamphetamine addiction shockingly new to me when new data was released the other day in a story that NPR covered. The most shocking statistic was that deaths from meth overdoses are nearly keeping pace with deaths from opioids to some extent, which I could not have guessed, because of how high opioid overdoses have also soared. Opioids are things like heroin, fentanyl, and other pain killers like Vicodin and oxycodone. Based on research released very recently from JAMA Psychiatry, from 2015 to 2019 deaths from methamphetamine overdoses rose by 180% in the U.S., from over 5,000 per year to over 15,000 per year. Based on those numbers, methamphetamine overdose deaths will not catch opioid overdose deaths in the very near term, but the meth problem is growing even faster than opioids. There are several important points that the public should know about this. We currently have no medications approved for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction. We are currently seeing overwhelming rises in the number of people addicted to methamphetamine in already impoverished communities. According to the study,
“In terms of absolute numbers, the group that’s most negatively affected by methamphetamines are American Indians and Alaska Natives and the difference is gigantic,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, one of the authors of the new study. The study goes on to show that meth addiction is growing at staggering rates in various populations.
In the same time as the study, 2015 to 2019, the black community has experienced a 1,000% increase in methamphetamine use by individuals. Some of these astounding increases have been tied to the fact that much of the methamphetamine sold on the street is now mixed with fentanyl, which is a powerful synthetic opioid that we talk about on this blog every week. Heroin, and now fentanyl addiction, were already huge issues in the black community and the wider American community, so the introduction of methamphetamine represents a decision by criminal organizations to try to get as many Americans as possible hooked on both meth and fentanyl. Treating addiction to methamphetamine is difficult and getting off that terrible drug is always complicated by the depression that comes with detoxing from meth, because of the chemical imbalance methamphetamine creates in the human body when it is used every day. People recovering from daily meth use often need even longer than opioid (heroin, fentanyl, painkillers) addicts to effectively detox and rehabilitate from the addiction and impact of the drug. That is a serious economic problem because paying for 30 days of treatment is already a large hurdle for many people. People working in this area would be massively helped by any new medications that showed real promise in the treatment of meth addiction, but no new drugs are in the immediate pipeline, so we are left to do our best as a nation in the face of long odds and growing numbers of people needing major support because of methamphetamine.
The Good News
These scary facts and figures should not keep people from being hopeful about recovery from addiction. Every single day people are putting down drugs and alcohol because they cannot safely use those substances, and things get easier each day that a person is sober when they take the opportunity to enter professional treatment programs and work on recovery and building a support system around themselves. Anyone who reads this should feel good about the fact that despite growing numbers of people needing drug and alcohol rehab, including drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, we are always getting better at treating individuals for addiction. I recently wrote about continuing care for people after drug and alcohol rehab, and support systems and professional help are making a difference for thousands of addiction patients every single day in this country. As the Covid-19 pandemic begins to get better in the United States, we have more opportunities to re-engage with friends and family and treatment providers, making the outlook for all patients better. Talking openly and honestly about the problems you are facing is paramount to recovery from addiction, so the Covid-19 pandemic has been a dark time for many people struggling with addiction, depression, and various other mental health crises. We have been more isolated than ever before. However, people currently struggling with addiction should also know that telemedicine has had a huge positive impact on the treatment of addiction. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, great drug and alcohol rehabs like Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center have been able to engage with patients face-to-face in a therapeutic environment through the use of the internet, which is vital to this large project of people recovering from substance use disorder.
Hard Problems to Measure
This data also basically left out large numbers of individuals currently experiencing homelessness because that data was not easily collectible for various reasons, but we know including individuals who are experiencing homelessness would only make these numbers worse and more shocking. I am writing this article today because we must stop merely being shocked at how bad these problems are becoming and start organizing people and resources that can fight these problems and turn the tide of this ever-worsening addiction epidemic in America and around the world. Please visit our website for more info on getting you or your family member treatment for meth addiction. Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center is the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, and our care providers are experienced in treating substance addiction in its many forms, but also have deep knowledge of treating co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety when they are present in patients who are also seeking help for addiction issues. Please call us today for any information we can provide you on the process of healing from addiction and dependence to drugs and alcohol.
By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)
- NPR, “Methamphetamine Deaths Soar, Hitting Black And Native Americans Especially Hard.” September 22, 2021.
- JAMA Psychiatry