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Alaska methamphetamine-related deaths surge fourfold 


November 07, 2017
Tuesday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic, Alaska is one of several states seeing a surge in methamphetamine use and methamphetamine-related deaths. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Section of Epidemiology released a report today on the health impacts of methamphetamine use in Alaska.

Alaska experienced a fourfold increase in methamphetamine-related mortality from 1.4 per 100,000 persons during 2008–2010 to 5.8 per 100,000 persons during 2014–2016. Rates were highest among people aged 45–54 years and among people living in the Gulf Coast, Southeast, and Interior regions of the state. Methamphetamine-related deaths affected all regions, races, and age groups in Alaska. 

jpg Alaska methamphetamine-related deaths surge fourfold 

Powder Methamphetamine in Foil
Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement

The rate at which Alaskans sought hospital care for amphetamine poisoning (including methamphetamine) during 2015 and 2016 increased nearly 40 percent. Rates were highest in Anchorage (18.2 per 100,000 persons), followed by the Northern (14.4), Matanuska-Susitna (13.8), Gulf Coast (9.3), Interior (7.1) and Southeast (8.8) regions. The total inpatient cost associated with amphetamine poisoning during 2015 and 2016 exceeded $5.3 million.

During 2015– 2016, 200 hospital discharge records were identified with a primary or secondary diagnosis of poisoning by amphetamines (including meth), and the rate of amphetamine-related outpatient hospital services in Alaska increased by nearly 60%.

People aged 25–29 years accounted for the highest rates of amphetamine-related hospital care, by age, for all years reviewed, and Alaska Indian and Alaska Native people accounted for the highest rates of amphetamine-related hospital care and mortality, by race, for all years reviewed.

The Southeast and Gulf Coast regions experienced the highest proportions of high school students who reported using meth during 2007–2015, the Anchorage and the Northern regions had the highest rates of amphetamine-related hospital care during 2015–2016, and the Gulf Coast region experienced the highest rates of meth–related mortality during 2009–2016.

Amphetamines (including methamphetamine) are commonly used in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, and heroin and other opioids. Of the 200 hospital discharge records identified in 2015 and 2016, 33 percent indicated use of amphetamines plus at least one additional drug, and 78 percent of amphetamine overdoses during 2008–2016 also involved at least one other substances. 

jpg Alaska methamphetamine-related deaths surge fourfold 

Ice Methamphetamine Bag
Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement

“Adverse health effects of methamphetamine use are increasing, and a considerable number of people who overdose on this drug are also using other substances,” said Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health. “It is important for state, local, and private agencies to collaborate when we are addressing substance misuse in Alaska. We need to be taking a coordinated, cooperative approach to this larger issue.”

Methamphetamine use among Alaska youth has dropped slightly in the past decade; however, use varied dramatically by school setting, with correctional facilities having the highest percentage of student-reported methamphetamine use (28.6 percent), and traditional high schools having the lowest (3.3 percent). 

Chronic methamphetamine use can lead to extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (often called “meth mouth”), anxiety, hallucinations, and violent behavior. Methamphetamine reduces inhibitions and impairs judgement, making users more susceptible to risky sexual activity and exposure to HIV, viral hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases. Users who inject the drug intravenously are at increased risk of contracting blood borne pathogens.

Quoting the State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin Health Impacts of Methamphetamine Use in Alaska, the Alaska’s Good Samaritan overdose prevention statutes were implemented with the intention of reducing overdose deaths by granting bystanders immunity from prosecution if they provide aid in the event of an overdose. Bystander intervention benefits first responders and drug-users alike, as bystanders can provide medical and law enforcement personnel with information on the drugs involved in the overdose, streamlining treatment and improving the chances of survival for the individual who is overdosing.

Alaska Epidemiology stated in their report, the Alaska Good Samaritan laws as they stand are limited in that they provide immunity from prosecution, but not from arrest, charge, or violations to probation/parole or restraining orders, which may still dissuade bystanders from taking action. In light of Alaska’s high drug overdose death burden, it may be beneficial to review these laws to determine if they could further encourage bystander intervention.

Although both amphetamines and methamphetamine do have many of the same characteristics and qualities, they are not exactly the same; however, they are both stimulants and they are both dangerous. There are some differences between amphetamines vs. methamphetamine, and though minimal, it’s important to know what they are.

Amphetamine is scientifically known as methylated phenylethylamine. Methamphetamine is double methylated phenylethylamine.

Amphetamine is used in some doctor administered diet pills and though it was once used in over the counter diet pills, this use has discontinued because of the high potential for abuse and dependence that amphetamine based drugs has. The effects of amphetamine are very strong and this can lead to an increased metabolism, rapid heart rate and similar effects.

The effects of Methamphetamine are quite the same but may also include: impaired speech, rapid pulse, dry mouth, shallow breathng, constipation, dizziness, insomnia.

Methamphetamine breaks down and metabolizes into amphetamine. 



On the Web:

Download and read the entire report:
Health Impacts of Methamphetamine Use in Alaska (pdf)


Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services


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Ketchikan, Alaska

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