Methamphetamine (Meth) use and addiction is on the rise in California. Meth ruins lives, destroys families, and ultimately, kills. To make things worse, the deadly drug fentanyl is now being mixed with meth, in addition to opioids. While opioid continues to lead in overdose deaths, meth is the front-runner in certain areas such as Fresno, listed in the top-ten locations in the Country for meth use; San Francisco where emergency room visits related to meth rose 600 percent; the San Joaquin Valley where amphetamine deaths numbered 232 vs 153 opioid deaths in 2017. (California Meth Statistics 2020). According the to CDC, the number of fatal overdoses involving meth has more than tripled between 2011 and 2016. In 2018, in California alone, there were 2,316 amphetamine-related deaths.

California is responding to this disturbing trend in a number of ways including expanding the reach of the State’s response for opioid use disorder, The MAT Expansion Project, to include expanded access to treatment for methamphetamine users.

Meth is Highly Addictive

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that can be injected, snorted, smoked, or ingested orally.

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Long-term methamphetamine abuse can cause addiction, anxiety, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior. Additionally, psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions can occur. The psychotic symptoms can last for months or years after methamphetamine use has ceased.

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Unlike opioid addiction, which can now be treated with medications, there are no medications for meth addiction. Treatment generally includes cognitive behavior therapy. Additionally, rewards for staying clean have been shown, in some cases, to support the addict seeking help. There’s a bill in San Francisco for increasing the use of these rewards and they have seen success so far. San Francisco program uses cash rewards to help meth addicts stay clean.

Additional Resources

Los Angeles Times Column: Meth addiction is an epidemic, and it’s complicating the homeless relief effort

SAMHSA: Learn about Methamphetamine: Know the Risks

Emergency / Crisis Hotline:

If you think you are having an emergency for an unexpected medical condition, including a psychiatric emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for help. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).