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Methamphetamines and Opiates, A Dangerous and Fatal Cocktail

By: Colin MacDonald

Methamphetamines are back. They cost less, are more addictive, and the purity of this stimulant is stronger than ever before.

Part definition and chemical makeup of Methamphetamine, which is in bold. Meth is back and it’s more dangerous than ever. The days of users making their own meth in bathtubs is something like folklore these days. Since 2006, the US government has cracked down on over-the-counter sales of the main cold medicine used in making methamphetamine, by requiring a prescription to purchase the nasal decongestant. Due to that, and increased raids by the DEA, who focused on shutting down methamphetamine operations, the days of ‘Breaking Bad’ mobile meth labs have quickly diminished. A void had been created. Whenever such a void occurs, especially in the drug industry, it doesn't take long for the cartels to come around and seize the opportunity to fill it.

It has been 12 years since the crackdown on over-the-counter sales of products used to make methamphetamines, and it has returned with a vengeance. The Mexican Cartels noticed this void developing in America and they are now the main distributors of meth across North America. They have manufactured it in such a way that an addict can maintain their addiction on $5 a day. High quality affordable meth is what they are producing, and in mass quantity. The combination of affordability and high quality is a dangerous recipe, creating an opportunity for the slippery slope of addiction to creep in.

At the US border, agents are seizing 10 to 20 times the amount of methamphetamine than they were a decade ago. That is just one testament to the size of the Mexican Cartels operation. If that is the amount getting seized, it’s not hard to imagine the amount silently slipping through the borders and infiltrating America’s vulnerable communities.

Methamphetamines Being Used in Combination with Opiates

Girl passed out on floor with needle in hand, drugs and belt on the ground, showing damaging effects of injecting meth and/or heroin In Oregon, they are being hit hard by the debilitating effects of addictive drugs. Oregon has a high population of heroin users. Lately however, it is becoming more common to use both heroin and meth, often in combination. 80-90% of heroin users are also using meth. One local was interviewed and claimed that “everybody has meth around here - everybody.” The effects of meth on the streets is so strong, and the purity so high that users often need something to calm them down, due to meth’s high energy, high intensity, often paranoid-like effects. They turn to heroin to get relief. It also goes the other way, heroin is a depressant and really slows the body and motor skills down. Heroin users are often using meth at the same time in order to keep them awake. This is a very dangerous combination of drugs. An upper mixed with a downer can have devastating effects on the heart, and may result in cardiac arrest.

In Oregon, 232 people died from methamphetamine use in 2016 and nearly twice as many died from overdosing on heroin. Those figures are three times as high as they were a decade ago. It turns out meth didn’t really go anywhere, it was just hibernating.

Combating the Scourge of Meth and Opiate Addiction via Drug Treatment Therapy

Public health experts say very little is being done to combat the increase in methamphetamines because it has been overshadowed by opiates. Meth is just as dangerous and deadly, if not worse. Unfortunately there is nothing like naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, for meth. And there is nothing like Methadone or Suboxone for meth. Methadone and Suboxone, both referred to as Medication-Assisted treatment, are the gold-standard for opioid addiction treatment amongst people trying to get off addictive opiates. These medications reduce craving and withdrawal, giving them the ability to take their life back, so they are not out in the streets looking for their next fix. Methadone and Suboxone are highly regulated by the government and pharmacies. At Searidge Drug Rehab, both Methadone and Suboxone are offered for assistance with opioid addiction treatment. Consulting with a physician or qualified therapist is best when trying to figure out which one suits each individual case. Something similar for methamphetamines would be a game changer.

One thing is certain, meth has not gone away, it is back and more addictive than ever. It is imperative that more research is done on the damaging effects of methamphetamine use and developing evidence-based treatments for those struggling with meth addiction. Meth is quickly becoming, if not already, the most dangerous drug in North America.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals