It was unimaginable twenty years ago that rural American was at risk of becoming part of the junkie statistic. But it didn’t take long for the nation to spiral into the depths of an opioid epidemic. The gateway to this hellish surrender to feel good substances is largely blamed on doctors and their willingness to dole out prescription painkillers to any patient who walked through their door complaining about a backache. An overabundance of pain pills was then distributed, shared, stolen or sold on the black market.
Through the screws of addiction, it eventually became more cost effective for some of these pill poppers to disregard expensive hydrocodone and oxycodone and graduate to heroin. What was once a drug made almost exclusively available to rock stars and Hollywood’s elite has become a relatively inexpensive way for regular Americans to get high. Sadly, it took more than 60,000 people dying every year from pills and powder before the U.S government even acknowledged that there might be a problem.
But while the nation was trying to figure out how to remedy opioid addiction, most forgot about the scourge of methamphetamine. Some might even say that meth is a dead scene. But the latest federal data shows this dangerous drug is making a comeback among college-aged Americans.
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which was published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, earlier last week, shows that people between the ages of 18 and 25, a demographic the study refers to as “transitional aged youth,” are using more methamphetamine now than heroin and other opioids.
In fact, this age group is apparently using more drugs these days than in times past. The study found that they are also drinking more alcohol, smoking more marijuana, snorting cocaine and dropping acid at a rate higher than their younger and older counterparts.
But they are doing less heroin. The report finds there were 81,000 new heroin users in 2017, compared to 170,000 in 2016.
Addiction specialists say the transition from heroin to methamphetamine was predictable. Because the media scared this age group by suggesting that their heroin might be laced with fentanyl, some of these people have abandoned smack and simply found an alternative high. In some cases, however, drug users with a loyal affinity to heroin have opted to invest in cheap drug testing kits to make sure their dope checks out.
“People still want to alter their mental state,” said psychiatrist Sally Satel in an interview with USA Today. “So they look for what’s cheap and what’s available and the reputation of the drug.”
But evidence has been mounting over the past year that shows heroin and meth is being used either in conjunction or as a way to balance each other out. Nearly a year ago, a report from High Times showed that meth was poised to become the next American drug crisis. A study referenced in the article found that “fifty-eight percent of positive heroin screens [In Alaska] also showed the presence of methamphetamine.”
Some addiction experts say this combination (called speedball) is often used to produce euphoria while also preventing the user from getting “shaky and paranoid.” In states like Ohio, overdose victims are increasing testing positive for meth. Some officials believe that the popularity of study drugs like Adderall and Ritalin have made it less intimidating for young people to experiment with cocaine and meth. Drug cartels are reportedly now making this decision easier by selling meth in pill form.
Some of the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that approximately 8,000 people die every year from an overdose on methamphetamine. This number is expected to increase exponentially over the next few years.
It is conceivable that if something isn’t done to help curb the problem, it could, perhaps with the next decade, spiral into a disaster comparable to the nation’s issue with opioids.