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U.S. sees 5-fold increase in methamphetamine overdose deaths

Methamphetamine overdose deaths have risen nearly 5-fold in the United States from 2011-2018, according to a new study. File Photo by Kaesler Media/Shutterstock.com
Methamphetamine overdose deaths have risen nearly 5-fold in the United States from 2011-2018, according to a new study. File Photo by Kaesler Media/Shutterstock.com

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Rates of methamphetamine overdose deaths in the United States increased five-fold from 2011 to 2018, according to an analysis published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry.

Methamphetamine-involved deaths rose, on average, by nearly 30% per year in the general population across the country between 2011 and 2018, the data showed.

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The highest number of overdose deaths among racial or ethnic groups was seen among American Indian and Alaska Native communities, which increased by almost 25% over the same period, the researchers said.

"This study illuminates very concerning trends," co-author Dr. Nora D. Volkow told UPI.

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"Methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths are increasing, even as deaths involving substances such as prescription opioids and heroin are steady or declining," said Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Much attention is rightly focused on the opioid crisis in this country, but it is absolutely critical that we do not neglect the danger posed by stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine," she said.

Methamphetamine is a strong, highly addictive stimulant that acts directly on the brain and central nervous system that can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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For this study, Volkow and her colleagues analyzed data on overdose-related deaths from the National Vital Statistics System, focusing on gender, race and ethnicity trends.

Operated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Vital Statistics System tracks all births and deaths nationally.

Between 2011 and 2018, rates of methamphetamine-involved deaths nationally increased from 1.8 to 10.1 per 100,000 men and from 0.8 to 4.5 per 100,000 women, the data showed.

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Over the eight-year period studied, overdose deaths increased by an average of 29% per year for men and 28% per year for women, according to the researchers.

Non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaska Natives had the highest number of overdose deaths, as they increased from 5.6 to 26.4 per 100,000 men and from 3.6 to 15.6 per 100,000 women, or about a 25%-per-year rise, the researchers said.

Non-Hispanic Whites had the second highest number, as they rose from 2.2 to 12.6 per 100,000 men and from 1.1 to 6.2 per 100,000 women, a nearly 30%-per-year increase, according to the researchers.

"These findings are another indication that the overdose crisis in this country continues to evolve, and our public health response must adjust to meet this challenge," Volkow said.

"The racial disparities of these findings highlight the critical need for community-specific approaches to addiction prevention and treatment in order to advance the goal of health equity," she said.

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