Posted on Feb 03, 2022, 3 p.m.
The meth epidemic is normally described as the concentrated spread of methamphetamine throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. But because of the advent of OxyContin in 1996, the opioid epidemic soon took a front seat in the discussion of drugs in America. It is common to assume that America has transitioned from a meth problem, then to an opioid problem, and now to a benzo problem. But did the meth epidemic ever go away? Here’s what you need to know about this forgotten epidemic and how meth addiction continues to spread across America.
Developed, Modified, and Regulated
The evolution of meth might have a deeper history than you think. Amphetamine was originally developed in Japan and used to heighten the alert of military soldiers. By the 1960s this drug found its way into widespread use across the globe and grew in popularity for another two decades. At that point, the problem exploded in size, as the chemical process to create meth from amphetamines was discovered. With this backdrop, the highly potent new drug was ready to hit the ground running, producing what is known as the meth epidemic between the 20th and 21st centuries.
Since then, regulations over the last two decades can attribute to the downward trend of meth. However, worldwide meth statistics show that this drug is anything but ‘old news’. It is a difficult battle to shut down a drug that is made from cold medicines found over the counter. In places like Mississippi, the plan of attack has been to require a prescription for the purchase of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient to cook meth. While this has been an effective way to curb the spread of meth, that regulation in Mississippi was reversed just this month. Many are worried that this will rewind the clock of progress for meth decline in Mississippi, and across the country as new production sites begin to pop up again.
Despite the bad news that potential meth labs now have a strong footing to take hold of America and make up for lost time in places like Mississippi, there remains another important piece of information that signals a growing threat. One DEA chemist involved in numerous meth takedown operations around the world has noted that the chemical structure of meth today has changed from the last few decades. Now, chemists involved in black market meth production have found a way to make the drug more potent and decrease some of the adverse side effects. However, this does not change the effects of meth as a deadly neurotoxin. In fact, some producers are moving away from ephedrine and using harsh chemicals such as those used in tanning oils, perfumes, and even racing fuels. But when people can get their hands on a drug that produces an intense high with less negative experience during the high, such as heart palpitations, they will likely not be concerning about what the ingredients are.
The silencing of such warning signs from our body only makes overdoses that much more likely. Many deaths attributed to meth overdose occur when people’s hearts suddently stop beating, but this normally occurs after users experience the repeated warning signs from the body that an overdose has occured. When these more potent forms of meth are taken, the intensity of the high and the silence of the body’s warning signs creates a fine line between drug use and drug overdose.
The Way Forward
Unfortunately, overdose rates are increasing severely, with recent numbers showing a 180% increased fatality rate from 2015-2019. The drug is also spreading at an alarming rate among Alaskan Native, African American and Native American communities. And while this can relate to the more potent form of meth being made, it also speaks to the growing problem of drug cutting. There is an ever-growing list of illicit drugs being cut with the deadly opioid fentanyl, and meth is no exception. Fentanyl is a deadly drug on its own because of its high potency and risk of overdose. But fentanyl (an opioid) mixed with meth (a stimulant) creates a perfect storm of destruction on the body, and this deadly mixture is being found more and more in the bodies of those dying from an overdose.
Meth use has not gone away. With new production innovations and varieties of the drug, meth is as dangerous and as accessible as ever. Drug cartels and dealers are not going to give up such a profitable industry, despite what laws and restrictions are in place. The way forward starts at the ground level. It starts with informing those who are interested in the drug about the widespread dangers and high potential for meth addiction. But it also starts with encouraging meth users to seek dedicated treatment, designed to help them get through the detoxing process in a safe and effective way. The day that this epidemic goes away will not come until enough people decide that the risk is not worth the fleeting reward.
This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
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