In a study published by JAMA Psychiatry, deaths from methamphetamine overdose increased dramatically over an eight-year period from 2011 to 2018. The study, conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that a methamphetamine crisis developed “quietly and actively” while the country focused on the opioid crisis.
The death rate from methamphetamine overdose increased from 1.8 to 10.1 per 100,000 men and about half that in women.
Mortality rates rose across all races and ethnic groups, with Alaskan Indians and natives having the highest death rates. The reasons for this are the numerous health differences in the two groups identified by the Indian Health Department of the Ministry of Health and Human Services. The age range was limited to people between 25 and 54 years of age, as data shows that this is the age group who use methamphetamine most often.
The JAMA study found that the sharp increase may be due to the lack of FDA-approved drugs to treat methamphetamine use or to reverse overdoses. Behavioral therapies such as emergency management therapy can be effective in reducing the harms associated with drug use.
In 2015, the FDA approved naloxone nasal spray for the treatment of opioid-related overdoses.
As the opioid crisis gained more attention and action, this study, published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that the rate of deaths from prescription opioids declined between 2011 and 2018. The same study also found that even after heroin deaths rose in 2016, opioid rates fell through 2018.
Even when compared to fentanyl-related deaths, which also increased over the same period, methamphetamine overdoses significantly exceeded them. As this 2019 CDC report shows, fentanyl deaths rose sharply from 2013 onwards, with about 1,600 fentanyl-related deaths each year in 2011 and 2012. However, by 2016 there were 18,335 deaths.
While deaths increased in both sexes, the dramatic shifts were in age and race. For men, the primary increases were seen in the 15-24 and 25-34 age groups. Within these groups, non-Hispanic blacks had the largest annual increase in fentanyl deaths.