Thursday, January 21, 2021

Study Points to Methamphetamine Crisis Among American Indians, Alaska Natives

There was a fivefold increase in methamphetamine overdose deaths from 2011 to 2018 among U.S. adults aged 25 to 54, with American Indians and Alaska Natives experiencing the highest death rates, according to a report published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry.

“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., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a senior author of the report, in a news release. “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.”

Volkow and colleagues collected deidentified public health surveillance data on methamphetamine-related deaths from 2011 to 2018 from the National Vital Statistics System. The authors limited their analysis to individuals between 25 and 54 years old, as national data show that four-fifths of people who use methamphetamines are within this age group.

The report revealed the following:

  • Overall, deaths involving methamphetamines rose from 1.8 to 10.1 per 100,000 among men and 0.8 to 4.5 per 100,000 among women from 2011 to 2018.
  • Methamphetamine-related deaths were higher among men across all racial/ethnic groups included in the study.
  • For both men and women, non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native individuals had the highest death rates by far, rising from 5.6 to 26.4 per 100,000 among men and 3.6 to 15.6 per 100,000 among women. Non-Hispanic Whites had the second-highest rates, increasing from 2.2 to 12.6 per 100,000 among men and from 1.1 to 6.2 per 100,000 among women.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native women had higher rates than non-Hispanic Black, Asian, and Hispanic men from 2012 to 2018.

The authors also noted that methamphetamine death rates may be underestimated because some overdose death certificates did not report the specific drugs involved.

“Identifying populations that have a higher rate of methamphetamine overdose is a crucial step toward curbing the underlying methamphetamine crisis,” said the study’s lead author, Beth Han, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., in the news release. “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.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News AlertNaltrexone-Bupropion Combination May Help People With Methamphetamine Use Disorder.”

(Image: iStock/PeopleImages)

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