Meth use “surging” in Iowa, according to state report
DES MOINES – A state report says there is a spike in methamphetamine usage in Iowa.
Recent developments, several of them encouraging, point to a possible shift in the opioid epidemic, while methamphetamine activity seems to be surging in Iowa. Those are among findings in the recently released 2019 Iowa Drug Control Strategy, an annual report by the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP). The report also discusses actions to strengthen Iowa’s response to changing needs.
“Early indications signal a possible slowing of opioid overdose deaths in Iowa, as fewer opioid pain relievers are prescribed and more safeguards against opioid misuse are put into place,” said Dale Woolery, Interim Director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP). “However, reports of more potent illicit synthetic opioids and increasing meth activity remind us our strategy must be comprehensive, long-term and responsive to evolving challenges.”
“Enhancements to opioid prescribing and monitoring, increased access to the opioid overdose rescue medicine naloxone and medication assisted treatment, more prescription drug Take Back options, and many other community initiatives are making a difference,” said Woolery. “Sweeping opioid legislation enacted earlier this year and newly announced federal grants to bolster heroin and meth enforcement efforts in Iowa will help too.”
The report highlights several findings, including:
- Iowa has the nation’s lowest overall rate of illicit drug use (6.76%), and youth substance abuse in Iowa has generally been trending lower over the last several years.
- Over 10,000 Iowans were treated for meth use disorders in 2018, an all-time high.
- The number of controlled prescription drugs (those with higher potential for abuse) dispensed in Iowa decreased 9.7% in 2017 vs. 2016.
- Preliminary data indicate opioid-related overdose deaths in Iowa for the first 8 months of 2018 (89) are down 35% vs. the same period a year ago.
- Iowa’s crime lab reports illicit opioid case submissions by law enforcement in 2018 are on pace to exceed 500, or about 8 times the level of 8 years ago.
- Use of naloxone by Iowa EMS personnel to reverse opioid overdoses rose to a record high 754 doses in 2017, the number of Medication Assisted Treatment providers tripled in 3 years to 107 in 2018, and permanent prescription drug Take Back sites increased more than 5-fold in 2 years to 233 in 2018 (October 27th’s Prescription Drug Take Back Day netted 10,469 pounds, bringing the total for Iowa’s last 16 one-day events to over 61 tons of unused medicines).
- Meth labs reported in Iowa are on pace in 2018 to reach their lowest point in 23 years, averaging about 2 per month (19 through October).
- The amount of meth seized by law enforcement and submitted to the Iowa crime lab in 2018 exceeds each of the previous 6 years (198,735 grams through September), and meth purity remains at an all-time high of 97%. Among adult Iowans entering substance use disorder treatment last year, more cited meth as their primary drug than marijuana (23% vs. 22%).
- Psychostimulant-related deaths in Iowa, primarily involving meth, increased to 96 in 2017, the highest point of the most recent 5 years of recordkeeping.
- Marijuana remains one of the most commonly-used illicit drugs in Iowa, accounting for 25.6% of all substance use disorder treatment admissions last year. The volume of law enforcement marijuana seizures is down this year. However, a significant number of cases involve more potent marijuana “concentrates.”
- 25% of Iowa 11th graders and 22% of 6th graders see no risk smoking marijuana once or more a week.
- Even as alcohol-related traffic fatalities (91) and the proportion of Iowans entering substance use disorder treatment citing alcohol as their primary substance (43.1%) dropped a little last year, Iowans’ consumption of alcoholic beverages continued to increase, and Iowa’s rate of binge drinking remained above the national average (21.2% vs. 16.9%).
- As the number of Iowa youth using tobacco has steadily decreased over the last decade, the 2016 Iowa Youth Survey says more 11th graders now use e-cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes (9% vs. 7%).
- An emerging theme with several addictive substances involves increasing product types, strengths and combinations (e.g., flavored distilled spirits, higher alcohol content beers, liquid nicotine in different flavors and levels, higher-potency marijuana “concentrates” in multiple consumable forms, high-purity meth and more lethal illicit synthetic opioids…pure or mixed with heroin).
“Many of today’s drugs are not what they used to be, and that means unsuspecting users may be at greater risk,” said Woolery. “Be it alcohol, nicotine products, marijuana, opioids or meth, some of today’s substances prone to abuse are now available in new formulations, alternative delivery systems and more potent concentrations.”
Iowa’s Drug Control Strategy identifies trends and prioritizes responses, including promising approaches for reducing substance abuse in Iowa. The report sets three broad goals as indicators of future progress: (1) Reduce the number of drug-related deaths involving Iowans; (2) Reduce the number of Iowa 11th graders who are current users of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; and (3) Increase the number of Iowans who are employed post substance use disorder treatment.
The 2019 Iowa Drug Control Strategy was developed in cooperation with Iowa’s Drug Policy Advisory Council and others. The full report is available at https://odcp.iowa.gov.
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