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