Methamphetamine posing new emerging threat in New England opioid crisis

BOSTON — Several health care providers tell Boston 25 News that methamphetamine use is presenting a new emerging threat here in the Boston area and across New England.

We spoke to one woman who says she is hooked and describes new challenges it's bringing in her battle with addiction.

"It's a whole new world, it's like your untouchable," said Christina.

It's a street drug that barely registers in local overdose statistics. But the impact of methamphetamines is starting to hit Massachusetts, intertwining with the opioid crisis.

"Heroin I've been able to overcome, cocaine I've been able to overcome, crystal meth is by far the hardest thing I’ve tried to quit doing," Christina said. "It's terrible, actually it's like the devil."

Addiction specialists on ground zero of the epidemic in what’s referred to as 'Methadone Mile' say Christina's story is becoming increasingly common. They told Boston 25 News that the prevalence of methamphetamine has spiked in the area over the last year and a half.

Public health officials and law enforcement are now working to find out where the influx is coming from.

"Increasingly we are seeing methamphetamines in Mass.," said Peter Friedmann, the president of the Massachusetts Society of Addiction Medicine. "There is a lot of concern that this is sort of going to be the fourth wave of the crisis.

"The major problem with methamphetamine is we don't have good medication treatment for it."

Unlike opioids, there is no FDA approved medication to ease meth cravings. Historically recognized as a problem in rural areas, methamphetamine has been creeping its way into drug markets in urban areas across the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meth and psycho-stimulant overdose deaths rose last year by 21% to nearly 13,000 from less than 11,000 in 2017.

The CDC says half of those who died after a meth overdose in 2017 also had an opioid in their system.

"They're straight up out of their minds," said one anonymous man who identified himself as a drug user. "They are bouncing back and forth.

"I've never seen people like this, it's the combination of doing a speed ball and being on angel dust."

"Just the takes the life out of you, drains you in every way," Christina said. "Physically, emotionally, mentally."

Offering a relatively cheap high that can last for days, methamphetamine use can lead to psychosis. Some local experts believe it’s what’s leading to some of the erratic, hostile behavior being witnessed in Boston's South End.

For Christina, it's a feeling of both paranoia and euphoria; she doesn’t know how she’ll kick.

"That's it, I stopped caring about pretty much everything, so I kind of block everything," she said.

A handful of addiction specialists we've been speaking with for this report say the treatment system here locally is not prepared to handle this type of addiction.

They tell us they've been researching new resources for patients. And we're told some local detox centers are now in the process of developing treatment protocols for people addicted to meth.

Related coverage: