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Methamphetamine use is soaring again, with nearly one million Americans hooked on it, according to federal health officials.
Between 2015 and 2018, about 53% of the 1.6 million meth users were addicted to it and slightly more than 22% said they injected the drug, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC noted that mental illness and use of other drugs were common among meth users.
"Identifying characteristics associated with past-year methamphetamine use provides insights into populations to prioritize for prevention and response efforts, such as males, middle-aged adults and people living in rural areas," said lead researcher Dr. Christopher Jones. He's associate director of the Office of Strategy and Innovation at the CDC's Injury Center.
Jones said meth is readily available throughout the United States. That includes the Midwest and West, where it has long been accessible, as well as in areas that had not been major markets, particularly the Northeast.
"Consistent with this increased availability has been an increase in methamphetamine-related use and harms," he said.
One reason for the surge: A growing demand among opioid users who mix opioids with meth to increase the high. Jones said meth is also a sought-after substitute when opioids aren't available.
The findings are based on 2015 to 2018 data from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
An estimated 1.6 million Americans aged 18 and older used methamphetamine during that time, according to the report.
The odds of use were higher among adults with limited income, the uninsured and those with less education -- trends that Jones said underscore the importance of recovery support services such as job training and placement, and linkage to social service providers.
"Based on the available data, there is an urgent need to expand state and local prevention and response capacity, expand linkages to care, and enhance public health and public safety collaborations to combat rising methamphetamine availability and related harms, and to do so in tandem with efforts already underway to reduce opioid-related morbidity and mortality," Jones said.
Linda Richter is director of prevention research and analysis at the Center on Addiction in New York City. She said the report is a powerful example of how the nation falls short in addressing substance use and addiction, especially among vulnerable populations.
Replace the word methamphetamine with opioids or most other drugs, and the profile of those most affected is easy to recognize, she said.
"It's those struggling with mental health problems, those who use or are addicted to other substances, those who are poor or lack health insurance, and those living in non-metro or rural areas who are the hardest hit," Richter said.
She added that the United States needs to move beyond stigma and complacency with respect to addiction, and focus on prevention and treatment.
"Illegal drugs are cheaper, more potent and more easily available than ever," she said. "People use methamphetamines because they crave their effects, to enhance or counter the effects of other drugs like opioids, and because prevention efforts are scarce and treatment is expensive, stigmatized and simply in short supply."