Methamphetamine a Reported Gateway to IV Drug Use

Methamphetamine a Reported Gateway to IV Drug Use

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Methamphetamine a Gateway to IV Drug Use

The most popular drug in the United States and Canada continues to be marijuana, but crystal meth and other amphetamines are next in line. A recent study of Vancouver street kids that focused on methamphetamine use showed that its use leads to injecting drugs.


The study, which appeared in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, used data from 991 “street involved” 14- to 26-year-olds who had completed the At-Risk Youth Study between October 2005 and November 2010. Around 40 percent of the young people surveyed said that they used meth and a similar percentage of them said that they injected their drugs. Just over 15 percent of the youth began to inject drugs during the course of the study and kids who did so tended to start using meth as early as age 14.

Methamphetamine is intensely addictive, with 25 million people around the world dependent on the substance. In the U.S. there are approximately 400,000 crystal meth users. Because of its chemical makeup and the way it operates, meth is one of the most addictive substances on the planet, and beating the addiction is tougher than tough. Even if meth addicts enter treatment, relapse rates are high.

Statistics from Canadian addiction centers show that young people (14-26) are turning to meth in greater numbers. In 1999 the percent of reported crystal meth users was 2.5 percent. By 1999 that percentage was 9.5. And if the study’s results are to be believed, once a kid starts using crystal meth it’s not long before they start injecting.

The study showed that young street kids using meth are more likely than others to start habitually injecting drugs. As the researchers talked to young folks who were IV drug users, they found that meth was the predominant gateway drug.

The study also revealed some other interesting facts: 39 percent of the youth said their first time injecting drugs was in public, with Vancouver’s infamous Downtown Eastside and Hastings Street the common thread. These kids shot up with friends in public 57 percent of the time, while with family 13 percent and casual acquaintances 10 percent.

Over the past year there have been hopes for a vaccine that could treat crystal meth addiction, but the fact that the meth molecule can bypass the body’s immune system and has a lengthy half-life means the substance addiction hangs around in the body for a long time, making it tough to combat. Essentially, it’s difficult to get the body to recognize meth as a threat. Triggering an antibody response is the real sticking point.

The Canadian researchers hope that a meth vaccine can be developed, but in the meantime public health intervention is key. The fact that meth use is growing and that it frequently leads to injecting meth and other drugs is a public health concern, and the risks involved in ignoring the problem are simply too enormous.

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