The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has thrown its support behind bipartisan federal legislation that, if enacted, would require the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop a specific plan to respond to the growing methamphetamine drug threat.
The legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate, the Methamphetamine Response Act of 2020, S. 4612, and its bipartisan companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 8210, would declare that methamphetamine poses a significant public health and safety threat and qualifies as an emerging drug threat.
Between 2018 and 2019, drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine and other stimulants increased by 27 percent nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And methamphetamine-related overdose deaths will likely continue to increase in 2020 due in part to the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, which makes obtaining treatment for substance use disorders, including methamphetamine use, more difficult, the text of the bill states.
In its Oct. 14 letter to bill sponsors U.S. Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ASAM said methamphetamine use disorder is a growing threat across the country. Its use remains widespread in the Midwest and western states and is becoming increasingly prevalent in the Northeast. In 2019, one million people suffered from methamphetamine use disorder in the past year, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
ASAM said methamphetamine use disorder is difficult to treat because one of the most effective treatments for the disorder, contingency management, is restricted by the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General’s interpretation of federal law.
“By requiring the ONDCP to develop a plan to help prevent and treat methamphetamine use disorder and overdoses, the passage of this legislation would take an important step toward addressing this complex and potentially fatal disorder,” wrote Dr. Paul Earley, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. ASAM represents more than 6,200 physicians and associated health professionals who specialize in the prevention and treatment of addiction.
The organization also noted that methamphetamine use disorder is not only damaging families and communities across the country, but it is also costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year.
According to a summary of the legislation provided by the lawmakers, the bill would require that ONDCP update the national plan annually and include an assessment of the methamphetamine threat, detailing the availability and demand for the drug, as well as the evidence-based prevention and treatment programs, and law enforcement programs. The update would also include short- and long-term goals, including those focused on supply and demand reduction, and expanding the availability and effectiveness of treatment and prevention programs.
The ONDCP plan also would have to include performance measures for the plan’s goals, an assessment of funding needs and the goals and objectives for a media campaign.
“We must implement a national, whole-of-government plan to address this threat before it becomes the next preventable drug overdose crisis in our country,” Feinstein said when she introduced the bill in August.
“In just one year, overdose deaths related to psychostimulants, which include methamphetamine, increased by 27 percent, the largest percent increase in deaths caused by any illicit drug, including fentanyl,” Feinstein added. “Over the first nine months of the fiscal year, methamphetamine seizures increased by 52 percent, which shows how widely available this deadly drug has become.”
The increase in the amount of methamphetamine seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection comes amid public reports that indicate Mexican cartels may be stockpiling money and illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, on both sides of the Southwest border, according to the text of the legislation.
U.S. Reps. TJ Cox (D-CA) and John Curtis (R-UT), who introduced the companion bill in the U.S. House, noted that rural communities have been hit particularly hard by methamphetamine addiction.
“Methamphetamine is notoriously one of the most common drugs in the Central Valley and meth-related fatal overdoses are beginning to eclipse opioid deaths,” Cox said last month when he introduced the bill.
Curtis added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem by spreading resources thinly and making it more difficult to connect with individuals in need of support.”
In addition to ASAM, the Methamphetamine Response Act is supported by The Fraternal Order of Police, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Director’s Association, The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), and The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), and the National Criminal Justice Association.