In 2020, 91,799 people died from drug overdoses. Since 1999, there have been almost one million deaths from this cause (more than 932,000). Three out of four overdose deaths, 74.8%, are due to opium derivatives.
These are data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those data show the opioid use epidemic sweeping the country. The problem begins in doctors' prescriptions, and ends in drugs purchased illegally on the streets. Fentanyl, a drug dozens of times more potent than heroin, is causing tens of thousand of deaths a year.
There is a different reality in rural America. Although opiates are also consumed, the most widely consumed drug is methamphetamine. It is a substance with very different effects. If opioids produce a feeling of tranquility, drowsiness and confusion, methamphetamine has a very stimulating effect. It produces excitement and increased wakefulness.
According to a study conducted between January 2018 and March 2020, and published in June this year, four out of five regular drug users in rural areas (79%), have used methamphetamine in the last month.
The study was conducted in rural communities in ten states (Illinois, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). Of the 3,048 respondents, 57% were male and 85% were white. 7.4% are Native American.
According to Todd Korthuis, lead author of the study, "This has been a West Coast problem for a long time, but now we see methamphetamine use in rural communities across the United States."
In many cases, more than one type of drug is consumed to obtain different effects. This combination can be very dangerous. According to the study, non-fatal overdoses are more frequent.
Thus, "concomitant methamphetamine and opioid use more than tripled the odds of nonfatal overdose compared with methamphetamine use alone and increased the odds of nonfatal overdose by 39% compared with opioid use alone," according to the study.
In Professor Korthuis' opinion, not enough attention is paid to the incidence of this drug because of the perverse and deadly effect of fentanyl and opiates. But as Todd Korthuis points out,"Co-use of methamphetamine and opioids is associated with a big increased risk of overdose in rural communities." And he adds: "Some people view rural areas as immune to problems like drug use and overdose, but they’re not."
If the CDC data referring to the year 2020 record almost 92,000 overdose deaths, the study by Todd Korthuis et al in turn cites another report with more up-to-date data. Thus, the year ending in February of this year would have recorded 104,034 deaths.