By Melissa Riddle Chalos
While the tragedy of the opioid epidemic continues to capture the national spotlight, methamphetamine use is on a serious, life-threatening comeback.
Back in the 1990s, we were used to seeing media reports of hidden meth labs exploding across the country. Then Sudafed moved behind the pharmacy counter as the government cracked down on the illicit use of pseudoephedrine in meth. Today, those Breaking Bad homebrew meth labs are “practically non-existent,” leading many to believe meth use is down too.1
But make no mistake: Meth is still a major drug threat, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Mexican cartels and their super labs have stepped up to meet the demand, with the majority of methamphetamine smuggled across the Southwest border now.1 US border seizures of methamphetamine have more than tripled since 2012, reaching 10-20 times the amount seized a decade ago.2
Why Is Meth On the Upswing in Atlanta?
Today’s meth is purer, cheaper and more addictive than its Sudafed-based predecessor. And because it’s mass-produced, there’s more meth on the streets than ever before. More people are using it and, tragically, more people are dying from it. In fact, drug overdoses involving methamphetamine in 2015 were up 30 percent over the previous year.3
In Atlanta, Georgia — where more than 55 percent of the state’s population resides — the revival of meth is indisputable. Consider these signs, as reported by the Community Epidemiology Work Group in 2014:
- The number of individuals seeking treatment for methamphetamine use in Atlanta was at its highest level since 2006.
- Self-reported methamphetamine use among male arrestees was higher than any drug-related category.
- Meth injection use among those seeking treatment was at a 10-year high.
- For the first time, methamphetamine reports ranked highest among all drugs in the National Forensic Laboratory Information System data.4
Atlanta’s location makes it particularly vulnerable to the resurgence of methamphetamine. As the largest city in the South, Atlanta is positioned in a state with extensive highway, rail, bus and air routes, as well as marine ports. Interstate 95 between Miami and New York City is a key corridor that runs along the east coast of Georgia, while Interstate 20 connects to drug entry points along the southwest border and Gulf Coast. All this — plus the fact that Georgia borders five states — makes it a perfect destination for drug shipments.
Georgia has also experienced tremendous population and economic growth in the past few years, especially in its capital city. Along with that comes more drug crime and violence.4
Meth Vs. Heroin: Addiction and Recovery
Purer and cheaper than heroin, methamphetamine is generally a more long-term drug of choice. Though it has a lower risk of overdose than heroin, meth is just as addictive and wreaks havoc on the brain and critical organs over time. And when used together with heroin — some estimates are that 80-90 percent of heroin users also use meth — it’s especially dangerous.5
Treatment for methamphetamine addiction is different from the treatment of heroin or opioid addiction. Along with behavioral and psychological therapies, medications like methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone are often prescribed for those seeking heroin or opioid addiction treatment. However, there are no FDA-approved medications to assist in alleviating meth cravings.1
The good news is, meth withdrawal symptoms are not as severe as those associated with opioid or alcohol substance use disorders. People who stop using meth do, however, tend to experience withdrawal cravings and severe depression and anxiety — often sleeping and binge eating.1 Treatment for meth addiction, therefore, is largely outpatient, after a short hospitalization or inpatient stay. Caring medical professionals who understand the exact toll meth takes on users — physically, behaviorally and cognitively — assess and map out a plan that provides the best possible chance at long-term recovery.
Meth may be on the comeback trail in Georgia, but you or your loved one can kick it to the curb right here in the heart of Atlanta at Talbott Recovery. Call our toll-free helpline to find out how you can get started on the path to recovery, and learn more about the treatment options that are available to you.
1 Vestal, Christine. “A New Meth Surge Gathers Momentum.” The PEW Charitable Trusts, May 18, 2017.
2 “Is Meth Making a Comeback?” The Influence, February 14, 2018.
3 “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States. 1999-2015.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 2017.
4 Dew, Brian J., and Ned Golubovic. “Patterns and Trends of Drug Use in Atlanta: 2013.” Proceedings of the Community Epidemiology Work Group, June 2014.
5 Robles, Frances. “Meth, the Forgotten Killer, Is Back. And It’s Everywhere.” The New York Times, February 13, 2018.