With the opioid crisis taking up so much space in popular media, it’s been easy to forget about other illicit drugs affecting people’s lives. In Colorado, methamphetamine (meth) use is widespread, due to its easy availability and inexpensive cost.
Heroin Users Switching to Meth
Some heroin users are switching to methamphetamine as their drug of choice, believing that they can’t overdose on meth or other stimulants. This is absolutely untrue, according to Lisa Raville (1), the executive director of the Denver’s Harm Reduction Center, which operates the city’s needle exchange program. She wants clients who come through her program to understand the risks associated with meth use.
Denver law enforcement has reported a total of 1,468 arrests on possession charges in 2018 (2). This figure represents a 217 percent jump in similar charges since 2014. Jason Dunn, the state’s US. attorney commented that while there has been some progress on the opioid front, “we’re still losing ground on the methamphetamine front.”
CO Doctors Using MAT for Meth Addiction
To combat this problem, Colorado doctors are turning to MAT (medication-assisted treatment). This approach uses a combination of specific drugs, such as Naltrexone, to help control a client’s cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, and talk therapy (individual and group) to treat the addiction.
MAT is a standard treatment for opioid addiction. Doctors are starting to use this method to treat those addicted to methamphetamines as well. Naltrexone and another medication, Vivitrol, haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat meth addiction yet, although a number of patients who have tried it report positive results.
Health Risks of Methamphetamine Use
Meth is a very powerful stimulant and even in small doses, it can lead to decreased appetite as well as increased alertness and physical activity. It also affects the user’s cardiovascular system and may lead to a number of health issues, such as:
• Rapid heart rate
• Increased blood pressure
• Irregular heart rate
In an overdose, the person may experience elevated body temperature (hyperthermia) or convulsions. This is a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment.
With long-term use, users need to take more of the drug, take it more often or change their method of use to get the sense of euphoria they are seeking. They may also have difficulty feeling pleasure unless they use meth, which may lead to even more drug use. Withdrawal symptoms (3) occur when someone who is a chronic user of the drug stops taking it. These symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, and depression, along with intense cravings for the drug.