Methamphetamine overdose deaths have surged over an eight-year period in the United States, a new study through the National Institutes on Health has found.
The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, revealed that while the rate of methamphetamine overdose deaths is on the rise across the country, American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest death rates overall.
The research was conducted at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“While much attention is focused on the opioid crisis, a methamphetamine crisis has been quietly, but actively, gaining steam—particularly among American Indians and Alaska Natives, who are disproportionately affected by a number of health conditions,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., NIDA director and a senior author of the study. “American Indian and Alaska Native populations experience structural disadvantages but have cultural strengths that can be leveraged to prevent methamphetamine use and improve health outcomes for those living with addiction.”
Between 2011 and 2018, the research found deaths involving methamphetamines more than quadrupled among non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives – from 4.5 to 20.9 per 100,000 people. Researchers said the finding illustrates why there is an urgent need to develop culturally tailored, gender-specific prevention and treatment strategies for methamphetamine use disorder.
Long-term decreased access to education, high rates of poverty, and discrimination in the delivery of health services are believed to be contributing factors in the health disparities for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Researchers looked at Americans between 25 and 54 years old, as recent data shows those are the people most likely to use methamphetamine. Data showed that nationally, between 2011 and 2018, the rate of deaths involving methamphetamine rose from 1.8 per 100,000 men to 10.1 per 100,000 men, and from 0.8 per 100,000 women to 4.5 per 100,000 women.
“Identifying populations that have a higher rate of methamphetamine overdose is a crucial step toward curbing the underlying methamphetamine crisis,” said Dr. Han. “By focusing on the unique needs of individuals and developing culturally tailored interventions, we can begin to move away from one-size-fits-all approaches and toward more effective, tailored interventions.”
Researchers said using leveraging traditional methods in American Indian and Native Alaska groups – like talking circles and smudging – could provide unique and culturally resonant ways to prevent drug use in young people, as well as augment treatment.