Increase Meth Fentanyl Use
Since 2013, a steep increase in meth and fentanyl use has been reported in a publication from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on January 3rd.
The study examined U.S. clinics, where healthcare providers collected approximately 1,050,000 urine samples from January 2013 to October 2019.
The study determined that in the course of six years, positive methamphetamine presence in urine samples was at 1.4% in 2013 and increased to over 8% in 2019. Fentanyl exhibited a similar pattern of prevalence over the years.
In 2013, approximately 1% of urine samples tested positive for fentanyl.
In 2019, this percentage of fentanyl in urine samples increased to about 5%.
The study implicates an increased use of methamphetamine and fentanyl among the general population over the past six years.
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Implications of Increased Use of Meth and Fentanyl
Researchers predict that methamphetamine overdoses will become much more common in the years to come as a result of the growing popularity of the drug.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report stating that meth has surpassed fentanyl in lethality in nineteen states across the U.S in 2019. Most of these states are in the Midwestern and Western parts of the U.S.
Fentanyl overdoses are more prevalent near the Mississippi River. Additionally, the study published by JAMA also found that urine samples contained traces of both meth and fentanyl.
These drugs are not only dangerous to use on their own, but it especially more dangerous when taken together. From 2013 to 2019, polydrug use of meth and fentanyl was identified by the increasing amount of urine samples containing both drugs. This increase was over 1,000% in indicating polydrug use of meth and fentanyl.
The research also indicated fentanyl and cocaine were present in the urine samples, an increase of 530%. Urine samples that contained fentanyl and heroin increased by 556%. This can possibly be explained by either individual preference to mix these drugs to experience a mixture of both drug’s effects.
Another possibility is that the user does not know they are intaking both drugs at the same time. This is because drug manufacturers who produce and distribute illicit drugs on the black market will often use fillers such as various chemicals, baby laxatives, and fentanyl due to it being much cheaper to produce.
The drug manufacturer saves money by being able to produce more of the valuable product through this form of dilution, resulting in more revenue. However, this is extremely dangerous and harmful to the user.
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Overdoses from Methamphetamine and Fentanyl
In 2017 in the U.S., 70,237 deaths from drug overdose were recorded. This is a 10.4% increase from 63,632 drug overdose deaths in 2016.
The most common drugs that were linked to these overdose deaths were methamphetamine and fentanyl. Although both drugs were used in all parts of the U.S., meth and fentanyl were prominent in different regions.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), much higher rates of meth overdose deaths were recorded in the Western U.S., while higher rates of fentanyl-related overdose deaths were prominent in the Northeast U.S.
This may be attributed to the availability and the manufacturing and production of these drugs in those specific areas. Both these drugs can be lethal on their own.
However, many people are using meth and fentanyl in combination to achieve a different kind of “high”. This is highly dangerous and can result in many serious physical and psychological complications, including heart attack, stroke, seizure, psychosis, and death.
As of 2020, meth and fentanyl appear to be the leading causes of overdose deaths in the U.S., next to prescription opioids.
What is Methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth or meth, is a drug belonging to the stimulant class. Colloquial street names for methamphetamine include ice, speed, crystal, and Tina.
It is deemed a Schedule II drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Meth, like all stimulants, affects the central nervous and produces effects of increased energy and motivation, powerful euphoria, increased focus and attention, increased libido, decreased appetite, and increased confidence.
Crystal meth has the physical property of glass-like fragments that can vary in color from blue to white tints. The drug can be administered orally, smoked, insufflated, or taken intravenously.
The effects of meth are typically felt immediately, if not in the span of a few seconds. Meth is highly addictive and can easily lead to a deadly overdose.
Long-term effects of meth include:
- Weight Loss
- Major dental health problems, which is known colloquially as “meth mouth”
- Severe itching, which leads to skin sores
- Development of other mental health conditions including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, many anxiety disorders, and psychosis
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Brain damage
- Major behavioral changes such as violence and aggression
- Memory loss
- Heart problems
How Meth Works in the Brain
Methamphetamine has a similar mechanism of action in the brain as other stimulants.
When the user consumes meth, many neurotransmitters, specifically, norepinephrine, dopamine, and even serotonin are released and activates the central nervous system and cardiovascular system.
These neurotransmitters are known as extracellular monoamine neurotransmitters, which meth elevates their level by inducing their release from the nerve endings.
This results in the effects of meth instantaneously manifesting upon use.
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What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, which it is derived from. The DEA has deemed fentanyl a Schedule II drug.
Fentanyl produces intense effects of pain relief, euphoria, relaxation, drowsiness, and sedation. Unpleasant side effects include nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, loss of consciousness, and confusion.
Fentanyl is prescribed by physicians after major surgery or for severe chronic pain. It is highly addictive and extremely easy to overdose. The drug is typically administered orally through a pill or absorbed into the skin via a patch.
The effects of fentanyl can be felt immediately. Long-term effects of fentanyl include dependency/addiction, multiple organ failure, development of mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, many anxiety disorders, and psychosis.
How Fentanyl Works in the Brain
Opioids are highly addictive; the reason for this is because of the way opioids work in the brain, and also how it eventually alters brain chemistry, resulting in brain damage.
During the early stages of opioid abuse, the compulsion to consume the drug increases due to tolerance and physical and psychological dependence. When opioids are consumed, it enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain.
It then binds to the specialized proteins mu-opioid receptors, which are located on the surfaces of brain cells sensitive and susceptible to opioids. When these chemicals are linked, stimulation of the biochemical brain activity occurs, which produces feelings of intense pleasure and euphoria, as well as reduces pain.
Opioids also release the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain that dictates the user’s desire to keep ingesting the drug, to maintain pleasure, and to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Prolonged use of opioids on its own will result in brain damage.
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