Methamphetamine remains a stubbornly prevalent illicit substance in large swaths of rural America, according to a new study by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and other institutions.
The findings, published today in JAMA Network Open, show that methamphetamine remains a common drug, and is driving overdoses in rural communities. About four of five people who use drugs in rural areas across 10 states reported using methamphetamines in the past 30 days, according to the study.
That’s a huge problem that’s often overlooked, said the study’s lead author from OHSU.
“Among people who use drugs in rural communities, methamphetamine use is pervasive,” said Todd Korthuis, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine (general internal medicine and geriatrics) in the OHSU School of Medicine and head of addiction medicine at OHSU. “This has been a West Coast problem for a long time, but now we see methamphetamine use in rural communities across the United States.”
The national opioid epidemic continues to dominate headlines, and accounts for the majority of the more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths recorded in the United States last year, largely due to fentanyl. However, Korthuis said it’s a mistake to overlook the impact of methamphetamine that continues to grip rural communities across the country. Fentanyl now frequently contaminates methamphetamine, Korthuis said. People may think they’re using only using methamphetamine, when in reality, they’re unknowingly taking fentanyl — which is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin.
The new study confirmed that the risk of nonfatal overdose was greatest among people using both methamphetamine and opioids; 22% of people using both drugs reported experiencing an overdose in the past six months.
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