Methamphetamine users are at increased risk for physical and mental health problems as well as other substance use disorders, new research shows.
Meth is an illegal and highly addictive stimulant drug that can harm organs such as the heart, lungs, liver and neurological system, and injecting it can increase the risk of infectious diseases, the researchers noted.
Their analysis of data from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2015 to 2019 found meth users were nearly twice as likely as non-users to have two or more chronic medical conditions. In addition, they were more than three times as likely to have mental illness, and more than four times as likely to have a substance use disorder involving drugs such as heroin, prescription stimulants, prescription opioids, cocaine and sedatives.
Many meth users have a combination of medical, mental and substance use issues, including all three at the same time, according to the report published June 3 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The study also found that meth users had higher rates of liver disease (hepatitis or cirrhosis), lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma), and HIV/AIDS than non-users.
“Our results certainly do not suggest that meth use causes most of these conditions, but they should inform clinicians that this population is at risk,” said study co-author Joseph Palamar. He is a researcher at the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU School of Global Public Health, in New York City.
Palamar said more study is needed to learn how dose and frequency of use relates to these conditions — for instance, occasional use on a night out versus chronic use that can lead to a host of adverse effects on the body.
“We also confirmed the well-known link between meth use and HIV, which can result from injection drug use or sexual transmission, but more research is needed to determine the extent to which meth use increases risk for [sexually transmitted diseases] due to the drug’s libido-enhancing effects,” Palamar added.
Study co-author Dr. Benjamin Han explained that meth use adds complexity to the already challenging care of adults with multiple chronic conditions.
“Integrated interventions that can address the multiple conditions people are living with, along with associated social risks, are needed for this population,” added Han, a clinician-researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who is also a researcher at CDUHR.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on methamphetamine.
SOURCE: New York University, news release, June 3, 2021