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U.S. overdose deaths have tripled in recent years

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY 23 September 2021 (HealthDay News) – Deaths due to methamphetamine overdoses in the United States nearly tripled between 2015 and 2019, health officials reported in a new study.

Although the number of methamphetamine users has not increased so sharply, researchers say that regular use of methamphetamine and the use of other drugs at the same time contribute to the increase in overdose deaths. According to the report, users have also become more diverse.

‘We are in the midst of an overdose crisis in the United States, and this tragic trajectory extends far beyond a opioid epidemic. In addition to heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine becomes increasingly dangerous due to infection with very strong fentanyland increases in the use of higher-risk patterns, such as multiple use and frequent use, “said researcher Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

By 2020, more than 93,000 Americans will die from overdoses, the largest increase in a year. The increase was largely driven by overdoses involving synthetic opioids, especially fentanyl, but overdoses with methamphetamine were also significant.

To determine the trends in methamphetamine use, researchers analyzed the causes of death from the National Vital Statistics System and 2015-2019 data on adults 18 to 64 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Since then, investigators have found that the number of deaths in overdoses involving drugs other than cocaine, mostly methamphetamine, has risen from more than 5,500 to nearly 15,500, a 180% increase. However, the number of people who reported using methamphetamine increased by 43%.

People who said they used methamphetamine frequently increased by 66% between 2015 and 2019, and the number of people who used methamphetamine and cocaine together increased by 60%.

Since 2017, more methamphetamine users have reported having higher-risk patterns of use, such as methamphetamine use disorder and / or the injection of methamphetamine, which may contribute to the increase in deaths from meth overdose, the researchers said.

Historically, methamphetamine has been used mostly by middle-aged white people, but now American Indians / natives of Alaska are the biggest users of the drug, according to the report.

“Public health approaches need to be adapted for the use of methamphetamine in the various communities at risk, and especially for the Native American and Alaska indigenous communities, which are at greatest risk for methamphetamine abuse and are too often under service,” says Volkow in a news release from the institute.

The incidence of methamphetamine use disorder among those who did not inject the drug increased tenfold among black people from 2015 to 2019, a much stiffer increase than among white or Hispanic people.

The use of methamphetamine has been linked to HIV transmission through needle-sharing and participation in unprotected sexual activities often associated with the use of meth. Researchers found that the incidence of methamphetamine injection was highest among gay men. Methamphetamine use disorder without injection has more than doubled among gay or bisexual men. And it has more than tripled among heterosexual women and lesbian or bisexual women, and more than doubled among heterosexual men.

The analysis also found that methamphetamine use disorder without injection quadrupled in young adults between 18 and 23 years of age.

“What makes this data even more devastating is that there are currently no approved drugs to treat methamphetamine use disorder,” said researcher Emily Einstein, head of NIDA’s Science Policy Branch, in the statement.

The report was published online in the journal on September 22 JAMA Psychiatry.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more information abuse of methamphetamine.

SOURCE: US National Institute on Drug Abuse, News Release, September 22, 2021

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