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After years of focus on opioids, meth use is roaring back

A Mexican Army expert shows crystal meth paste on Aug. 28 at a clandestine laboratory near la Rumorosa town in Tecate, Baja California state, Mexico. Experts say that as opioids are becoming more difficult to access, addicts are turning to methamphetamine use. (GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Health officials, law enforcement and researchers across the country are sounding the alarm that methamphetamine use is making a roaring comeback.

Experts say that as opioids are becoming more difficult to access, addicts are turning to the cheaper, more readily available alternative of crystal meth.

What are the details?

The use of meth surged during the 1990s, then subsided during the mid-2000s as laws were implemented to restrict the purchase of pseudoephedrine — a popular cold medicine needed to produce the street drug.

A study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates an alarming reemergence of amphetamine abuse, showing an increase of deaths from psychostimulants of more than 250 percent between 2008 and 2015.

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that from 2014-2017, "there was an eight-fold increase in Iowa deaths related to amphetamines," and "a 38 percent increase in methamphetamine treatment admissions" in the state.

Officials in South Jersey are working to get ahead of meth's reemergence by training law enforcement, social workers and recovery specialists on this new brand of an old foe.

Why is meth making a comeback?

Lt. Joseph Landis of the Atlantic Country Prosecutor's Office told the Press of Atlantic City, "A huge reason why the drug is making a comeback is because you can see how to make it. You probably have everything in your house you need to make a batch of meth. The ways to make it now are easier, but more dangerous to do."

Yet, according to officials in Ohio, the meth hitting their streets isn't from old family recipes — and in fact, it's much more pure.

"It's manufactured in Mexico by drug cartels and they are pushing that into Ohio," Lt. Bob Sellers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol explained to WSYX-TV.

As the U.S. has grappled with the devastating crisis from opioid abuse, experts warn that if something isn't done about the rise in meth use, the country could be taken off guard by another epidemic.

"We have really undercut treatment for methamphetamine," researcher Jane Maxell of the University of Texas at Austin told NBC News. "Meth has been completely overshadowed by opioids."

One last thing…
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