Methamphetamine Use on the Rise in Patients With Opioid Use Disorder

The rate of past-month methamphetamine use was found to have significantly risen in individuals with opioid use disorder from 2011 to 2017.

The rate of past-month methamphetamine use was found to have risen significantly in individuals with opioid use disorder from 2011 to 2017, according to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The study included patients entering drug treatment programs in the United States (n=13,521) who were asked to complete an anonymous survey of drug use patterns from 2011 to 2017. The researchers also interviewed a subset of participants (n=300) to expand upon the survey results.

During the period assessed, past month use of methamphetamine was found to increase from 18.8% to 34.2% in participants seeking treatment for opioid use disorder (+82.6%; P <.001). The western United States had the greatest increase in past month methamphetamine use from 2011 to 2017 and the highest prevalence rate of methamphetamine use in 2017 (+202.4%; P <.001 and 63.0%, respectively). 

Methamphetamine use was found to increase in several demographic groups, including men (+81.8%), women (+97.8%), whites (+100.6%), urban residents (+123.0%), and rural residents (+93.7%; P <.001 for all). In interviews, participants reported that they used methamphetamine for several reasons: as a substitute for opioids, for a synergistic high, or to balance the effect of opioids so that they could function “normally.”

”Such co-occurring use of methamphetamine and opioids highlights the need for more research and understanding of polysubstance use, particularly its role in furthering prevention and treatment efforts that often are siloed into a particular drug of interest. Interventions focusing solely on opioids may not be effective for those who may engage or have already engaged in experimentation with multiple drugs of abuse,” noted the study authors.

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This work was supported by private funds from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS®) System, an independent nonprofit post-marketing surveillance system that is supported by subscription fees from pharmaceutical manufacturers, who use these data for pharmacovigilance activities and to meet regulatory obligations. RADARS System is the property of Denver Health and Hospital Authority, a political subdivision of the State of Colorado. Denver Health retains exclusive ownership of all data, databases and systems. Subscribers do not participate in data collection nor do they have access to the raw data.

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­Ellis MS, Kasper ZA, Cicero TJ, et al. Twin epidemics: the surging rise of methamphetamine use in chronic opioid users. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018;193:14-20.