Meth use surpasses heroin use in Indiana, researchers say

Discarded syringes lay near near train tracks on Monday, July 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – Amphetamine use has surpassed opioid use according to the Public Health Analyst for Indiana’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program.

Meredith Canada said amphetamines include everything from meth to ritalin.

Both Canada and HIDTA Drug Intelligence Officer Robert Glynn says meth lab busting helped to temporarily slow down amphetamine use in the past.

“Now the supply is coming directly from Mexico, higher quality methamphetamine (that’s) much cheaper,” said Glynn. "Cartel members are even fronting it or handing it out at free, as a business move to get people hooked so they’re going to have to come back and buy it."

Canada said nationally, there’s a trend where drug use cycles between an uptick from methamphetamine to an uptick in opioids. But said Indiana has “consistently been a consumer of not just opioids but methamphetamines.”

Data source: SAMHSA, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS)

When asked why the sudden uptick in meth in Indiana has always been a polysubstance state?

Canada said “I can’t explain that I don’t have enough information.”

Glynn spent 30 years on the street combating illicit drugs as a member of the DEA.

He admitted that as a member of law enforcement he used to think “we could arrest our way” out of the drug crisis.

But Glynn also spent 20 years as a hockey coach for kids. And said he has seen the children that he coached get addicted to drugs.

"I know some of them who have died from their substance abuse disorder," said Glynn.

The day after Glynn retired from the DEA, he became a Drug Intelligence Officer with HIDTA Indiana.

Indiana is one of about two dozen states with a HIDTA program – where a public health officer and drug intelligence officer work side-by-side to tackle overdoses.

In their first report, analyzing drug supply and demand over the last five to 10 years has found that Indiana consistently remains above the national average for drug overdose deaths.

Data source: ISDH, Statistics Explorer

While meth use has gone up across the state, opioids remain far more deadly.

When it comes to meth, “it’s the chronic use and the wearing down of the body that ultimately ends up killing someone so those deaths are always going to be lower,” said Canada.

But opioids take less.

“When it comes to pain pills, heroin and fentanyl, pain pills are consistently the number one overdose death cause in the state,” said Canada.

Canada said currently, there is no way to determine if the pain pills are buoght on the street or prescription.

“That gets a little bit complicated because the drug seizure data is managed by law enforcement where prescription data is managed by Indiana Public Licensing Agency. And there’s no way to put them together. So additionally we know in our drug supply, we know people will use a pill press to make counterfeit drugs, so we just have no way of knowing where the drugs in their system came from unless it’s an illicit source like heroin,” said Canada.

Indiana is a high trafficking area because of it’s highway networks. Canada and Glynn both agree that the further one gets from the main trafficking routes, the more tampered the drugs.

Canada says fentanyl is in everything now.

Canada and Glynn both presented their findings on the drug crisis to the Indiana Attorney General on Tuesday. And based on their findings, their recommendation is for interdepartmental collaboration to tackle overdoses.

“It’s law enforcement, its response, addiction recovery and it’s prevention,” said Glynn.

Canada says it also requires better data collection to help with analysis which in turn can help with recommendations.

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