Meth seizures in the US surged by nearly 150 percent between 2017 and 2018, a new report reveals.
US authorities confiscated 67,757 kilograms of the potent stimulant methamphetamine last year, compared to just over 28,000 in 2017, the NPR analysis found.
The drug has also been involved in a growing number of overdose deaths, rising to nearly 13,000 fatalities in 2018.
Even as public health officials celebrate the long awaited fall of opioid overdose deaths, drugs like meth are having a shadowy resurgence, and experts caution that the US may be teetering on the edge of its next drug epidemic.
A DEA map shows the hot spots US officials are watching for surges in drug trafficking – especially meth, seizures of which spiked by 150 percent in 2018, NPR reported
Methamphetamine – the same drug infamously concocted by Walter White in the fictional TV series, Breaking Bad – has gone largely ignored as Americans have panicked over the opioid epidemic.
At the height of the epidemic of nervous system depressants, in 2017, drugs killed at least 70,690 people in the US.
Nationwide, public health officials and enforcement authorities have breathed a sigh of relief in the last year as the death toll finally fell.
Americans are getting and taking fewer prescription painkillers and, although fentanyl continues to stream into the US through illicit channels, programs to distribute naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, have saved many lives.
Opioids slow down the entire nervous system, meaning even an experienced user may stop breathing within minutes of ingestion, especially if they’ve (intentionally or unwittingly) taken fentanyl.
Methamphetamine – the same compound used in drugs to treat ADHD – is less deadly, but still dangerous.
The stimulant fuels faster heartbeats, quells the appetite and floods the brain with euphoria and boosts energy.
Meth is highly addictive and can kill brain cells or trigger heart arrhythmia, heart attack or stroke.
And even as police get fewer calls for opioid overdoses, they are seeing more calls for meth emergencies.
‘It’s surpassed what we’re seeing from heroin and fentanyl,’ Bradley Osgood, chief of Concord, New Hampshire’s police force told NPR.
‘The rise in meth has just been unbelievable.’
His department as well as those across the country are confronted with people who are unusually aggressive and forceful thanks to their meth highs.
Police forces, drug enforcement agencies and cartels are all redoubling their focus on meth, even ahead of the users whose hands the drugs will ultimately end up in.
‘Seizures indicate increasing trafficking in these drugs,’ John Eadie, public health coordinator for the federal government’s National Emerging Threats Initiative told NPR.
‘So if seizures have more than doubled, it probably means more than double trafficking in methamphetamines.
‘And with that go additional deaths.’
Certain areas of the country, such as the Midwest, are known for meth cooks and explosions from the dangerous process by which the drug is made.
However, experts told NPR that it’s largely making its way into the US along the same routes that fentanyl and heroin travel from Mexico.
And traffickers are only likely to dump more meth into those channels.
‘They study the trends just like people here study the stock market,’ Jon DeLenaj, a DEA special agent told NPR.
‘They know what the next trend is going to be, and sometimes they force that trend upon people.
‘And that’s exactly what they’re doing in this case.’