Suboxone and ‘ice’ – the addict’s cocktail –
By Patricia Beech –
While national and state attention remains focused on the opioid and heroin epidemic, another familiar drug is beginning to resurface in Ohio’s communities – methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine, or “crystal ice” is quickly overtaking heroin as the preferred drug of choice among local users and addicts, according to Adams County Sheriff Kimmy Rogers, who says it’s a trend driven by economics.
“It’s all about the money,” says Rogers. “A drug addict can buy meth for $9 a gram, or he can buy heroin for $130.”
Meth has been appearing in Ohio crime labs with greater frequency since 2015.
“It’s one of those drugs that stayed under the radar because all we talk about is opiates and heroin, but it’s becoming more and more common now,” Rogers said.
Meth is a synthetic psychostimulant drug that acts on the central nervous system by releasing high levels of pleasure-causing dopamine in the brain.
Rogers says the type of meth law enforcement is seeing isn’t the “bathtub meth” users make at home, but a highly potent, rock-like pure methamphetamine known as “crystal ice” or “crystal meth” that comes from outside the U.S.
The number of meth cases the Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) has processed in recent years is trending upward, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The BCI processed 2,050 cases in 2015. That number jumped by nearly 1,000 the following year, and increased yet again to 5,300 in 2017. Thus far in 2018, the agency has processed well over 1,000 cases.
The drug’s renewed popularity may be due to users mixing it with Suboxone, a drug used to treat adults who are dependent on, or addicted to, prescription or illegal opioids like heroin.
“People we’re arresting are testing positive for both meth and Suboxone,” says Rogers. “They’re using them together to get a heroin-like high without the danger of overdosing.”
While overdose deaths from methamphetamine are much lower than deaths from opioid-based drugs, data suggests that number is rising.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported over 7,000 methamphetamine-related deaths in 2017 and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) methamphetamine was responsible for 11 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2015.
While meth is a stimulant that causes anxiety and agitation, Suboxone, like heroin, is a “downer” drug addicts use to “even themselves out”.
Many in law enforcement worry that the new Suboxone Clinics are turning into “pill-mills” like those that indiscriminately dispensed opioids until a government crackdown curtailed the unfettered prescribing of opiate-based pain killers.
Covered by Medicaid Expansion, Suboxone is readily available for those in recovery, and also for those with no interest in recovery.
“Doctors are saying some users need to be on it for life,” says Rogers. “They fail to realize that many of those people are just playing the system, and that they create a real financial burden on local communities like ours that have no money and we have to eat the financial burden they create.”
(This article first appeared in the April 11 issue of The People’s Defender. If you would like to subscribe to get more of the best local news reporting, please call the Defender office at (937) 544-2391.