In recent years, conversations around addiction usually focus on the devastation that opioid use is causing, or, more recently, the resurgence of alcoholism as a public health issue. These are of course urgent issues that deserve our attention, but while efforts have been focused on managing the opioid epidemic, meth addiction and the urgent need for increased access to meth rehab has quietly become a national crisis in its own right.
The numbers are grim. In 2017, 5.4 percent of Americans over the age of 12 had used meth in their lifetimes, and this number has remained steady in recent years. What hasn’t remained steady is the human cost of meth use: from 2008 to 2015, amphetamine-related hospitalizations soared by 245 percent and an estimated 10,000 Americans died from meth overdoses in 2017.
Dueling Crises: Methamphetamine and Opioids
Law enforcement and medical professionals warn that the resurgence of meth is not getting the attention or resources it merits. Due to the current focus on combating the opioid crisis, one researcher observed that, “meth has been completely overshadowed by opioids.”
The unfortunate reality is that there are finite resources to fight addiction, and meth just isn’t on many lawmakers’ radars. Those on the front lines are sounding the alarm: “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t see someone acutely intoxicated on methamphetamine,” one California emergency room doctor reported.
Though meth and opioids are being pitted against one another in a fight for attention and resources, they are actually interconnected. Local authorities are finding that many street drugs, including meth, are now cut with fentanyl, which causes the majority of overdose deaths among opioid users.
Some meth users are also dabbling in heroin, and as the crackdown on opioids progresses, more opioid users are turning to meth because it’s cheaper and more widely available. The overlap between meth and opioids signals a need for a more comprehensive strategy to combat drug use, as users don’t always stick to one substance and street drugs are often mixed.
Mexican Superlabs Are America’s Main Meth Supplier
During the meth crisis of the 1990s and early 2000s, addicts began making their own meth, putting themselves and others in danger. But after lawmakers placed a restriction on substances used to make methamphetamine, the crisis abated for a time.
However, where there is a gap in supply, bad actors will always emerge to fill it. The majority of the meth in the US now comes from Mexican “superlabs.” Drug cartels then smuggle it across the border and distribute it in the southern states and all the way to Oregon, where meth-related deaths are skyrocketing.
Law enforcement officials are fighting the rise in meth trafficking by seizing meth at highway stops, but judging by its availability on the streets, a lot more is getting through. United States Customs and Border Protection reports that the amount of meth that has been seized has tripled in the past five years. But the drug cartels are winning: meth is now selling for as little as $5 a hit, and it’s more potent than ever.
The Human Cost of Cheap Meth
Meth can cause a terrifying array of health issues, including tooth decay, psychosis, brain damage, and rapid weight loss. It disrupts users’ lives by causing them to behave erratically and sometimes violently, and it tears families and communities apart. Researchers have recently highlighted a few specific trends that exhibit the human cost of meth use.
The American Heart Association recently reported that meth causes severe congestive heart failure; doctors are seeing a rise in patients with meth-related heart failure, and these patients tend to be young. Congestive heart failure is usually seen in older patients, but meth users as young as 30 have the condition.
Meth Use Among Pregnant Women
Meth use is becoming more common among pregnant women. A study found that in 2015, 82,000 deliveries were impacted by amphetamine use disorder. Meth use during pregnancy increases the maternal mortality rate: expectant mothers who continue to use the drug are at a higher risk of cardiac arrest, death during or after delivery and seizure. Fetuses carried by meth users are at risk of losing oxygen supply or being born prematurely.
In cities where meth proliferates, mass incarceration is close behind. In an attempt to keep afloat, some meth users begin to sell the drug; when they are caught, they face lengthy prison sentences. In Oklahoma, which has some of the highest rates of meth use in the country, more than twice the national average of women are incarcerated. Some treatment programs are available as an alternative to prison, but too many female meth users are being separated from their families without getting the treatment they need.
More Treatment, Less Punishment
Increased legislative focus, more support for addicts and research on treatment methods are all necessary to improve the situation of people struggling with meth addiction. A discussion about how different addictions intersect with each other is also long overdue: medical experts are warning that since drug users tend to switch drugs or use more than one substance at once, a broader focus on addiction is necessary when drafting policies and developing treatment plans.
If You’re Struggling with Meth Use, We Can Help
Meth addiction is insidious and intense, but there is hope: with the right treatment, you can and will recover. You’ll need a facility that understands co-occurring addictions and mental health issues, and in the early stages of recovery from meth addiction, it’s important to have the supervision of trained medical professionals.
Broadway Treatment Center’s team of addiction experts can help you safely detox from meth. We offer unique services such as pet-friendly residential treatment, couples’ addiction treatment, jail diversion programs and holistic treatments like yoga, art and surf therapy. Your personalized treatment plan will address co-occurring addictions and mental health issues and enable you to develop healthy behavior patterns and improve overall health and wellness. To learn more about how we can help you get back on track to the life you want, contact us today.