For the last several years, opioid addictions to drugs such as oxycodone have been chewing up the headlines when it comes to media reporting and government attention. The news reports about fentanyl have added to the frenzy which has overshadowed the meta picture of the fact that the totality of addictions across all drugs have been climbing for the last 5 years along with overdose injuries and deaths.
“When you’re boots on the ground, what you see may surprise you, because it’s not in the headlines,” said Madeline Vaughn, former lead clinical intake coordinator at Houston-based Council on Recovery. In 2016, while reports in news outlets were buzzing about prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl fatalities on the rise, she noticed her patients had symptoms of something else. Twitchy suspicion, poor memory and a feeling they were being followed weren’t symptoms of an opioid addiction, they were symptoms of meth addiction.
In the last three years, meth use has more than tripled across the United States but little has been spoken about this trend. Some critics of the media’s coverage of what they consider to be America’s drug problem rather than opioid problem believe some of the reasons for this involve the nature of the drugs themselves. For instance, opioids have Medication Assisted Treatments (MAT) such as naloxone which have been shown to not only prevent death from overdose, but also contribute to treatment facilities which handle addiction. Some drugs have shown that they can curb withdrawal symptoms which often drive an addict to continue using a drug as well as reduce the feeling of the drug as well as cravings. This makes it an ‘easy solution’ for which the government can throw money and be fairly confident that immediate results will be seen in at least one or two measuring points.
Meth on the other hand has no such ‘magic bullet’. Furthermore, it also hasn’t been especially resulting from more legitimate arms of society such as the medical community. Opioid addictions have ties to pharmaceutical companies which have over-encouraged doctors to prescribe the potentially habit forming drugs both without warning the patient that the drug is addictive but more more often as well. Methamphetamines are essentially on the same playing field as cocaine, a drug that is ‘out there’ instead of ‘in here’ like oxycodone and other opioids. It’s an easy excuse to say it’s a problem of the ‘they’ and ‘them’, who are effectively ‘over there’, not in your local hospital.
This, however, hasn’t changed the truth that meth use is just as much, if not more, of an epidemic that has momentum towards claiming more and more lives.
“If we had five or six miracle drugs, it’s still gonna be difficult to know which one that patient needs,” said EMS physician director for Houston, Dr. David Persse. Meth isn’t as simple and as it continues to spread in use, it’s only a matter of time before the media will call an opioid-style attention to it, but by then it will have been much too late. A snake in the grass that seemingly took everyone by surprise.
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