A new variety of methamphetamine is taking the country by storm and with it being cheaper than ever before, the illicit drug may soon rival the crack epidemic in the 1980s.
Known as Meth 2.0, the drug is primarily imported from Mexico and is stronger, cheaper and more plentiful than the old home-cooked variety, USA Today has reported.
“It’s a lot like ‘Breaking Bad,’” St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar told The Fix.
“These Mexican labs are making a very pure methamphetamine. It’s almost night and day different than your old-fashioned basement meth lab sort of thing,” the Missouri prosecutor said. “They can mass produce the meth and distribute it at a reduced price, which consequently has led to a rise in local consumption.”
The more pure drug contributed to almost 30 deaths last year in the St. Louis area, up from seven the year before, according to The Fix. And overdoses are on the rise.
It is hard to get off meth and state and local officials are scrambling to deal with this “drug plague” amid a national focus on opioid addiction.
Erika Haas, a recovering addict, is quoted in USA Today while tearfully talking about being on meth for over five years — she reportedly went from being prescribed OxyContin for back pain to heroin and then methamphetamine.
“It’s like God tells you that if you take another breath, your children will die,” she said. “You do everything you can not to take a breath. But eventually you do. That’s what it’s like. Your brain just screams at you.”
A drug treatment center counselor told USA Today that more meth users are injecting the drug than smoking or snorting as they did in the past, and people are also starting to use at a younger age.
And while not on par with the opioid epidemic, the deaths are climbing, according to the paper:
Nationwide, the advancing meth scourge has yet to capture the kind of public response the opioid epidemic was, even though the nationwide spike in meth-related deaths in the past two years was steeper than the spike in opioid deaths two decades ago when that crisis began.
In the first decade of the opioid epidemic, the number of overdose deaths rose fourfold, from 3,400 in 1999 to 13,500 in 2009, based on a Stateline analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With the advent of cheap and powerful imported meth, the spike in deaths has been much sharper. Meth overdose deaths increased fourfold in half as much time, from 2,600 in 2012 to 10,300 in 2017.
Still, meth users are less likely to die of an overdose than users of painkillers and heroin. Instead, meth kills most of its victims slowly.
Meth addicts require on average at least 90 days of intensive counseling and therapy to get off the drug, with most expected to relapse multiple times.
“Crystal meth accelerates the reward circuits in the brain more powerfully than any other drug we have,” Dr. Paul Earley, an addiction physician in Georgia and board president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, told USA Today.
Earley also said meth “causes the most rapid downhill course of any drug.”
“With heroin, people — Keith Richards [of the Rolling Stones], for example — can go on using the drug for 30 or 40 years without medical problems, as long as they dose it right,” the doctor said. “But with meth, 100% of people who use the drug experience severe and rapid physical deterioration.”
All of which goes back to President Donald Trump and his efforts to secure the U.S. border with Mexico, to include building a better, more effective wall to impede drug smugglers.
In the long run, the cost to the nation in responding to the Meth 2.o “plague” is sure to be steeper than building a wall.
Legalized marijuana in the U.S. is also a factor here, Lohmar told The Fix.
“The cartels were the major suppliers and producers of marijuana, historically, over the last 30-40 years,” he said. “And now that a lot of states have legalized marijuana, whether it’s recreational or medicinal, that’s cut into their market. That’s when they turned to heroin first, and now they’re turning to crystal methamphetamine. They’re always trying to stay one step ahead of the game.”
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