Even though opioid addiction gets all the press, officials say addiction to Methamphetamine is reaching record levels in Texas, and is a greater problem now than it was in 2006, when 'meth labs' prompted restrictions on the over the counter sale of pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in meth, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Dr. Joy Schmitz, a clinical psychologist at the U.T. Health Science Center in Houston (UT Health), and the head of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addictions,is among a handful of researchers nationwide working on a treatment for methamphetamine use disorder, to help overwhelmed counselors and drug treatment centers deal with the press of meth addicts coming through their doors.
Studies show that there are several reasons why meth addiction is booming. They include the fact that the pseudoephedrine ban pushed production of meth to Mexican cartels and actually made its street price cheaper and made the drug more available in Texas than ever. The form of the drug coming out of Mexico is also more addictive. There is also the 'mainstreaming' of meth thanks to Hollywood productions like 'Breaking Bad' and Dr. Schmitz says there is also a change underway in drug use patterns.
"We have seen cocaine prevalence slightly decline at the same time that meth use is slightly increasing," she said.
The form of meth coming out of Mexico today is far more potent, and the Drug Enforcement Administration ranked meth as the one of the top drug dangers in Texas.
Poison control calls about meth are at their highest levels ever in the state, and admissions to treatment programs by patients who have meth addictions have gone from 3% of all admissions to 16% today.
Dr. Schmitz says her research at the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston involves coming up with an effective treatment for meth addiction.
"Methamphetamine, which is in the same class of drugs as cocaine, but when you use methamphetamine, the effect is much stronger, and it stays in the brain longer," she said.
She says meth is 'one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs on the illicit market.'
"The effects of it over time, cognatively, physically, behaviorally, can be pretty devastating," she said.
Dr. Schmitz says the health science center is looking to enroll 55 people into the study which will attempt to come up with a treatment for meth addiction.