As the 2020 election approaches, politicians are still focusing heavily on policies to combat opioid abuse. However, with Highland County officials saying drug users are beginning to turn to other substances like methamphetamine, health care providers are growing concerned.
Roger Cheesbro, CEO of Family Recovery Services (FRS), told The Times-Gazette that FRS is seeing a decrease in opioid use and an increase in the use of other drugs like methamphetamines.
“Something that I’m hearing peers across the state talk about is that a lot of the funding that’s coming down is attached to opioid use, and that’s a great thing, but if funding and responses come down focusing on opioids, and we’re seeing an increase in other drug usage, that can become problematic,” Cheesbro said.
The United States has been struggling with opioid usage since the 1990s, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that doctors began prescribing opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin more frequently. By 1999, the number of prescription opioid overdose deaths had increased, beginning what the CDC calls the first wave in the rise in opioid overdose deaths.
The second wave began in 2010, when heroin apparently became the drug of choice. The CDC said that likely stemmed from prescription opioid abuse. In fact, according to the CDC, “Among new heroin users during 2000 to 2013, approximately three out of four report having misused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.”
The third wave began in 2013 with the increased use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which the CDC describes as “50-100 times stronger than morphine.”
The Times-Gazette reported earlier this year that opioid usage has been decreasing in Highland County as users turn to methamphetamine. Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins told The Times-Gazette that she’s seen a decrease in cases involving opioid possession and an increase in those involving meth possession.
“Some people told me that the reason they quit using heroin and went meth was because they know what’s in meth, whereas with heroin, there’s a chance you’re buying fentanyl, which is more deadly,” Collins said.
However, Highland County Coroner Jeff Beery said he has seen an increase in overdose deaths in which the user mixed substances, most commonly meth and fentanyl.
While national politicians continue to focus on the opioid crisis, substance abuse continues to change shape.
“Highland County had one of the highest rates of meth use in the state prior to the opioid crisis,” Collins said. “Drugs just go in a cycle. For a while it’ll be meth, and then it’ll go to something else.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.