While public health officials have focused on the opioid crisis in recent years, and states have pursued litigations against the makers of prescription opioid pain relievers, another epidemic has received far less attention. Methamphetamine abuse has been surging in the United States, leaving first responders and addiction treatment providers struggling to handle the escalating crisis.
American University Radio WAMU reported in May that nationwide “overdose deaths involving methamphetamine doubled from 2010 to 2014. Admissions to treatment facilities for meth are up 17 percent. Hospitalizations related to meth jumped by about 245 percent from 2008 to 2015. And throughout the West and Midwest, 70 percent of local law enforcement agencies say meth is their biggest drug threat.”
There are troubling indicators everywhere. While opioid fatalities may have slightly decreased in West Virginia last year, the percentage of overdose deaths involving meth is still on the rise. “More than one-third of overdose deaths involved meth. That figure was at 3 percent in 2014,” reported Clarksburg-based MDTV in September. “Local officials have been sounding the alarm in recent years when it comes to meth, including in Taylor County, where prosecutors say nearly 90 percent of their caseload has a meth component.”
Cincinnati Public Radio reported in April that a new report by the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network found that “while opioid prescriptions are falling throughout Ohio, methamphetamine remains widely available in the state. In the Cleveland area, powdered cocaine and meth are becoming more available, and the number of clients entering treatment for meth use increased.” The report compiled data from January to June 2018 and conducted focus group interviews involving active and recovering drug users, law enforcement, and treatment providers.
In February, San Francisco Mayor London Breed established a task force to combat the meth epidemic in her city. “We need to be proactive in addressing the rising use of methamphetamines in our City,” Breed said in a press release. “San Francisco is facing serious challenges around substance use, particularly on our streets, and we cannot just let these drugs destroy lives and harm our communities. By bringing together leaders and specialists from across the City, we can identify solutions that will help us to get people into treatment and to deal with the challenges caused by this dangerous drug.”
The trend in rising stimulant use is nationwide: cocaine on the East Coast, meth on the West Coast, Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a professor of medicine and substance use researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, told WAMU. “It is an epidemic wave that’s coming, that’s already here,” he says. “But it hasn’t fully reached our public consciousness.” Or as Kaiser Health News put it in May, “America has two drug epidemics, but focuses on one.”
State officials are increasingly urging the federal government to allow more flexibility in spending anti-opioid money. According to USA Today, the director of Missouri's Department of Mental Health called on a Senate appropriations subcommittee to start transitioning from opioid-only grants to states' existing "Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment" block grants to meet changing demands.
As NPR noted in June, the federal government has given out at least $2.4 billion in state grants since 2017, “in hopes of stemming an opioid epidemic that killed 47,600 people” in that year alone. But state officials point out that drug addiction problems seldom involve only one substance. “According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 states—including California, Pennsylvania, and Texas—have reported that opioids were involved in fewer than half of their total drug overdose deaths in 2017.”
Addiction is a complex biopsychosocial disease that is frequently driven by underlying mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and unprocessed trauma. America’s addiction crisis isn't likely to be mitigated simply by restricting access to one particular substance. If the underlying causes of substance misuse are not addressed, people with addiction will simply switch to a different substance.
Recovery from a severe substance use disorder requires comprehensive treatment that looks at the whole patient, not just the substance use, because biology, sociology, and psychology all play important roles in understanding addictive behavior.
The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place offers superior addiction treatment services to individuals from all walks of life. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use and could benefit from addiction treatment services, please contact The Farley Center at 800.582.6066 or fill out our admissions request form.