There has been no shortage of headlines about the opioid crisis in recent years. While opioid-related deaths and overdoses continue to plague consumers, a new study conducted by researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse is exploring why methamphetamines in particular are beginning to draw more concern.
According to their findings, methamphetamine overdose deaths have become five times more common across the United States over the past decade.
“Identifying populations that have a higher rate of methamphetamine overdoses is a crucial step toward curbing the underlying methamphetamine crisis,” said researcher Beth Han. “By focusing on the unique needs of individuals and developing culturally tailored interventions, we can begin to move away from one-size-fits-all approaches and toward more effective, tailored interventions.”
What groups are at the biggest risk?
The researchers analyzed public health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Vital Statistics System to determine trends that have emerged across the country regarding methamphetamine overdoses. They learned that across the board, methamphetamine overdose deaths have surged in the last decade.
The study showed that overdose deaths were five times more likely in 2018 than they were in 2011. By demographic, men were more likely to overdose than women.
The researchers also learned that the biggest increase in methamphetamine overdose deaths occurred in two groups: Alaskan Natives and non-Hispanic American Indians. In 2011, overdoses affected less than 5 out of every 100,000 people in these groups; by 2018, that figure jumped to nearly 21 out of every 100,000 people. Men in these groups were also disproportionately affected by methamphetamine, but women’s overdose deaths were also five times more likely in 2018 than in 2011.
Finding the right interventions
While there are currently no prescription drugs for treating methamphetamine addiction, the researchers hope that these findings lead to better behavioral interventions. They believe taking a cultural approach to preventative measures for Alaskan Natives and American Indians could be the best way to reduce widespread methamphetamine use. Having community-focused initiatives -- like an education-based or prevention program -- could reach larger groups of people and reinforce the dangers associated with these drugs.
“While much attention is focused on the opioid crisis, a methamphetamine crisis has been quietly, but actively, gaining steam -- particularly among American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are disproportionately affected by a number of health conditions,” said researcher Dr. Nora D. Volkow.
“American Indian and Alaska Native populations experience structural disadvantages but have cultural strengths that can be leveraged to prevent methamphetamine use and improve health outcomes for those living with addiction.”