As America struggles with the opioid epidemic, drug and addiction researchers are also observing the rapid rise of methamphetamine abuse in the country. While meth might be largely out of the media spotlight, its insidious effects continue to multiply around the nation and may pose even greater risk in Southwest U.S.
Meth is a dangerous drug that can lead to dramatic health problems among its users and devastation brought upon their families, friends and employers. Including methamphetamine in your employee drug testing panel helps you identify workers who may be illicit users. As an employer, you should also be aware of the drug, its effects and culture in order to identify employers who may be using meth. If you have an employee who tests positive and want to know your options, check out this blog.
In the world of illicit drugs, methamphetamine stands out as unique in its origins and effects. Meth is a stimulant drug originally developed by a Japanese scientist in the 1890s, and was used early on to treat illnesses such as narcolepsy and depression and to aid in weight loss.
During World War II, soldiers on both sides also used methamphetamine to stay awake and alert for longer periods of time. After the war ended, the drug gained popularity as an “upper” among truck drivers and college students. Legally, methamphetamine is now used in certain FDA approved drugs to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
On the illegal drug market, meth is most often sold in powder or rock form. The rock appears as blocks or shards of crystals, which are typically snorted, smoked or melted and injected intravenously. White and odorless, powdered meth can be smoked, snorted, eaten, or injected.
Methamphetamine in its many forms goes by a staggering number of street names.
Meth was also widely known as crank, a term used for street meth in the 80’s and 90;s. Just like all other street drugs available today, meth is stronger and more potent than its predecessor. It is also more available than crank because it’s produced in super labs in Mexico.
Though meth use dipped slightly in the early 2000s and then plateaued from 2008 to 2012, rates have since risen dramatically. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, nearly 900,000 adults 18 and older used methamphetamine.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also reported that about 22,000 adolescents age 12 to 17 and 850,000 adults suffer from a methamphetamine abuse disorder. Statistics also show that meth use is more common among men than women and more common among Caucasians.
These numbers are enough to give any employer pause, when they consider the potential of hiring someone who uses meth. And there’s evidence that meth users are among the workforce. Since 2012, rates of positive tests of methamphetamine rose 64% among the country’s general workforce, and 14% among federally regulated, safety sensitive workers. Part of this is attributable to the increase in use of certain prescription drugs such as Adderall.
While many illicit drugs derive from natural products or require advanced chemistry and security to create, methamphetamine is relatively simple and affordable to make. Meth labs began popping up around the country in the late 1990’s and very early 2000s, very similar to those you saw in the popular TV series “Breaking Bad.” These make-shift labs are easy to assemble and can be quickly erected in a motel room, residential home, recreational vehicle or backyard shed. The result of such labs often involves major clean-up costs due to the toxic nature of the chemicals, and in some cases, explosions.
The United States saw a dramatic drop in domestic meth labs after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new legal restrictions governing the over-the-counter sale of ephedrine and pseudophedrine, two of the drug’s main ingredients. The FDA restrictions were part of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic of 2005.
Now, most of the meth consumed by Americans comes from Mexico, over the border and into the Southwest portion of the US. However, the remainder of the country has not been immune to the effects of rising meth trafficking, with Southern and Midwest states seeing dramatic problems. Just about every community in this country has been affected by meth. As such, states have begun fighting back with successful prevention programs, such as the Montana Meth Project.
Meth is a powerful central nervous stimulant that produces feelings of intense euphoria and high energy. The effects are overwhelming and can vary in length. Smoking and injecting meth offer the quickest and most extreme immediate intoxication, while effects are slower to develop and often less intense in users who snort it or add the drug to their morning coffee. Depending on the method used to ingest, the high can last for hours.
Signs of meth use include, but are not limited to, heaving sweating, extreme activity, dilated pupils, paranoia and/or irritability. In some cases, meth use has been known to cause auditory and/or visual hallucinations along with extreme paranoia. People who use meth by smoking the drug often experience intense dry moth. The lack of saliva causes bad breath and bacteria build-up. This coupled with the more advanced user’s general lack of dental hygiene, ultimately leads to major tooth decay, commonly referred to as “meth mouth.” Skin sores may also be an indication of meth use, as the chemicals breakdown the skin, and more frequent users tend to pick their skin while under the influence.
Injecting the drug puts users at risk of contracting Hepatitis C, HIV and other infectious diseases. Besides the potential liability of having an employee high on the job, employing someone using meth can become costly to a company’s health insurance.
As meth use rises, more people with substance use disorders succumb to the effects of the dangerous drug. The number of meth-related overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overdose deaths grew again in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available in full.
2017 Projected Data
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released preliminary data about the overall rate of drug overdose deaths among states. Nevada’s death count ranges from 633 deaths by drug overdose in 2015 to a preliminary 733 deaths by overdose in 2017.
Besides the usual drug use signs such as secrecy, missing work and poor performance, employers can look for specific signs of meth use in their employees.
Are you concerned that one of your employees might be using methamphetamine or other drugs? At Timely Testing we can help educate your staff on the dangers of drug use on the job, create policies for testing and complete your onsite testing for new and current employees. Contact us to learn about how you can identify the signs of drug use and abuse.