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Alarm Bells Sound In Oklahoma Meth Epidemic

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<p> When we think of the drug problem in the United States, we almost always think of the opiate epidemic first. The opiate epidemic is usually in the spotlight. And not without reason. The majority of all drug deaths per year are from opiates. </p>
<p> But we are wrong on the side of negligence if we pay enough attention to a drug problem that we do not adequately address the problem with other drugs. The number of drug deaths in which meth is involved is increasing rapidly, mainly due to the far greater burden on the drug and the lack of sufficient public efforts to help addicts. </p>
<p> Today's meth is much more likely to be fatal and people die from it. Since meth is not an opiate, it is unfortunately not so easy to use federal funds for meth addicts. This is the disadvantage of trying to solve opiates' s only drug problem. Other drug problems appear behind our backs. </p>
<p> What can we do about the meth crisis? And how can we tackle the growing meth problem without slowing or stopping our efforts to combat the opiate problem? </p>
<h2> A growing crisis </h2>
<p> The New York Times reported on this problem and investigated the growing meth crisis in the state of Oklahoma. According to her article, meth abuse in Oklahoma has gotten so out of control that deaths from meth-related complications are now higher than those of all opiate types combined. </p>
<p> And this is not the pseudoephedrine meth that first appeared in the 1990s and early 2000s. This is (for the most part) not the homemade, "breaking bad" method that many of us think of when we think of methamphetamine. Today's meth is far more effective and far more dangerous. </p>
<p>"It's very different from 20 years ago. It's like they drank Mountain Dew and now they're injecting Red Bull."</p>
<p> According to the NYT article, today's meth is an extremely effective version of the drug. It is a meth strain made by Mexican cartels in illegal drug laboratories. Dr. Jason Beaman from the Center for Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University had an appropriate analogy. "It is very different from 20 years ago. It is as if they drank Mountain Dew and now they are injecting Red Bull." </p>
<p><img alt= And not only Oklahoma was hit by this new meth scourge. There are 35 states that report overdose deaths to the federal government. In 14 cases, meth is now involved in more deaths than fentanyl. Fentanyl was and is the number one enemy of the drug scene. Fentanyl is one of the most effective and deadly drugs ever. Fentanyl has killed thousands of people in the past year alone. So if 14 states suffer more deaths from meth than from fentanyl, that's very worrying.

New York Times quote: "Preliminary data from the C.D.C. shows that there were approximately 13,000 meth deaths nationwide in 2018, more than double the number in 2015. This is still far less than the total opioid deaths that exceeded 47,000, but the pace is increasing as the opioid deaths have lost weight. From May 2018 to May 2019, there were 24.6 percent more deaths from meth and other drugs in its class than last year, compared to 9.4 percent more deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. "

Beginning of another public health emergency

We can understand the concern here. Meth may not be the leading killer right now. If current trends continue, meth-related deaths could take more lives than opiates. It could very well be that we are facing an entirely new health emergency, which may be even more traumatic and terrifying than the opiate epidemic that we have dealt with so far.

And it gets worse.

Unlike an opiate overdose, which we can treat with naloxone (a drug used to reverse an emergency overdose), there is no way to reverse the effects of a meth overdose.

This additional concern is compounded by the fact that federal meth is still not considered to be fatal or worrying like opiates.

But that changes. We have to recognize more than ever that meth is as dangerous and deadly as opiates.

If the meth trend continues, nonlinear events could occur. We could face events where our inability to treat meth overdoses and our reluctance to treat meth addiction as stubbornly as we treat opiate addiction could result in a number of catastrophic events. There is no telling what kind of crisis might occur if we don't get the meth problem under control now.

How do we face a drug crisis?

The basic problem of the drug addiction epidemic since it broke out in the late 1990s is that we simply are not doing enough to address this problem. The crazy thing is, we know exactly what we need to do to tackle the problem. There is no secret. We know that prevention and education prevent people from ever using drugs. We know that inpatient treatment helps people get rid of their drug habits.

The problem is that insufficient efforts are being made in these areas. We need to be aware that the drug problem is the responsibility of all of us. We can only improve as a nation to the extent that we can improve as a society. And we can only improve as a society to the extent that we can improve as individual communities and families. We need to be aware that helping addicts get better is ethical and that it is right for our cities, our communities, and ourselves.

If you know someone who is struggling with a drug problem, make sure they get help as soon as possible. Drug use (and not just opiate use) is a matter of life or death. The faster we all work together to address this new problem, the more lives will be saved.

Sources:

Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP

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