Increasing presence in the US of methamphetamine mixed with opioids creating concern

Methamphetamine is killing more Americans each year and health workers are worried about it. 

The drug is more popular – and more deadly – these days, leaving health officials and police scrambling to limit its spread.

“It really has taken off… and what’s really happened the last five years is it’s started to be mixed with opiates,” said University of Washington Physician Paul Borghesani.

Borghesani monitors drug trends in the U.S. and has noticed increasing dangers in methamphetamine, a stimulant, being combined with depressive drugs like heroin or fentanyl.

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“When you mix the two, you’re kind of giving a mixed message to the body,” Borghesani said.” Which can make it quite lethal, because you kind of get picked up sometimes and then crash off of it.”

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The most recent data from the American Public Health Association shows a dramatic increase in deaths caused by this combination.

In 1999, meth killed 608 people, according to the APHA. In 2021, that number was around 52,400 – and 61% of those fatal meth overdoses involved either heroin or fentanyl.

“America is being inundated with methamphetamine, with synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” said former DEA Special Operations Director Derek Maltz. “And our citizens across the country are being harmed at historic levels.”

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Maltz has been tracking the methamphetamine increase in the U.S. He’s noticed more of the drug coming up from the southern border and making its way into local communities.

“The cartels are bringing liquid meth into America,” Maltz said. “They’re setting up labs to convert the liquid meth into the crystal meth that’s out on the streets.” 

The CDC reports methamphetamine has passed cocaine as the second most common drug involved in overdose deaths within the last three years.

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