Methamphetamine, often referred to as meth, is one of the most dangerous and highly addictive illegal drugs. Its use can lead to several long-term physical and neurological problems. Meth use in the U.S. has increased exponentially in recent years, with the death count being higher than ever.
Methamphetamine comes in various forms and can be snorted, injected or smoked. The user usually experiences a period of euphoria, increased energy, and rapid heartbeat. Continuous users often go long periods without sleep, from days to even weeks. In some cases, users can become paranoid and experience auditory and visual hallucinations. Physical symptoms include dramatic weight loss, dilated pupils, itchiness, lesions on the face and body from excessive picking, lack of sleep followed by a crash period of oversleeping, and rotting teeth (also referred to as “meth mouth”).
Part of the problem with meth is that amphetamines have various over the counter and prescription forms, used for coughs, colds, Attention Deficit Disorder, and weight management. These legal forms of amphetamines may begin addictions in those who would otherwise not have ever been exposed to amphetamines. Meth use experienced a brief decline when legislation passed to restrict access to a certain cough and cold medicines containing ingredients used in the creation of methamphetamine, but drug users quickly found ways around this barrier.
Because the U.S. is currently experiencing an opioid crisis, the recent surge in methamphetamine abuse has been overshadowed. While efforts are focused on solving the opioid crisis, meth has flown under the radar and become a vastly increasing problem. Unlike opiate addictions, there is no medication available for methamphetamine addiction, and addicts must rely on rehabilitation and therapy to recover.
Deaths and hospitalizations due to methamphetamine use and overdose have increased exponentially in the last decade in the U.S. While opioid hospitalizations have increased by nearly 50% in the years between 2008 and 2015, methamphetamine hospitalizations increased by about 245%. This increase had a noticeably higher concentration in Western states, including California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. In California, the number of reported amphetamine-related deaths increased by 127% from 2008 to 2013. These hospitalizations also show that meth users are also likely to be abusing other substances at the same time, as across the U.S., nearly half of the meth-related hospitalizations involved at least one other drug. Reports show a steady increase in the percentage of methamphetamine-related deaths in the total number of drug overdose deaths from 2010 to 2018.