Understanding the Pennsylvania Meth Addiction Problem

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Peace Valley Recovery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide patient-centered care that focuses on healing and recovery from addiction. This blog provides information, news, and uplifting content to help people in their recovery journey.

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: March 5, 2023

The opioid epidemic has been a serious problem in Pennsylvania for years but now another drug is joining its ranks and on the rise. A growing meth addiction problem in Pennsylvania is plaguing the state alongside the existing opioid problem. The drug that was once a rare sight has now spread throughout the state.

“Today, I could see it every day,” said Chief Jerry Speziale of the Hazleton police force. Before 2019, he said he could likely count the number of times he saw methamphetamine in over three decades on a single hand. Physicians, law enforcement, and outreach workers alike see the shifting trends in use.

Depressants remain the drug of choice for most users in Pennsylvania. Though it hasn’t replaced the pull of opioids, methamphetamine is still widely available across the state but hasn’t replaced the pull of opioids, either. Since 65% of drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved opioids, it might seem like the meth problem in Pennsylvania isn’t as pressing.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Meth use in the state seems to be following the same upward trend as opioids. Drug abuse of any kind is a cause for concern and meth is no different. How severe is the meth use problem among residents, though? What can be done to treat the Pennsylvania meth addiction problem?

Pennsylvania Meth Addiction: A Growing Problem

Methamphetamine is usually associated with Midwestern or West coast states. Opioids tend to be the preferred substance among Eastern states. Despite the regional preference for opiates, though, meth use in Pennsylvania is rising. As Chief Speziale explained, the drug is making its way across the state.

There are still unanswered questions surrounding the sudden shift in drug use, though. Officials speculate that the high rates of opioid-related fatalities may cause some users to switch to meth. Other users seek it out because they prefer mixing meth with other drugs, especially downers like opiates.

At the same time, Mexico-based drug operations are also expanding their reach and bringing methamphetamine into Pennsylvania. Meth addiction rates have grown in conjunction with the spread of cartel-supplied drugs. Eastern counties like Lancaster County and Luzerne County showed the first spikes in meth use before it spread west.

Sam Sanguedolce, First Assistant District Attorney for Luzerne County has another idea. He’s seen the uptick in use among residents in the county he oversees. Sanguedolce speculates that the legal crackdown on fentanyl and carfentanil trafficking might have encouraged the switch.

Treatment for Meth Addiction in Pennsylvania

Addiction advocate Marty Henehan also points out that addicts don’t have to use their drug of choice. Oftentimes addicts use whatever substance is available whether or not it’s their first choice. They’re usually looking for something to make their brain feel different, whatever that substance might be.

Meth Addiction Statistics

The data doesn’t lie and a range of research and meth addiction statistics reflect what Chief Speziale observed. Last March, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration released a report that revealed multiple discoveries. First, at the national level, methamphetamine was the drug identified most frequently among federal and local forensic labs. Between 2010 and 2017, drug reports for methamphetamine in Pennsylvania shot up 880%.

Overdose deaths involving methamphetamine in Pennsylvania doubled between 2016 and 2017. Rates stayed steady the following year and continued into 2019. OverdosefreePA tracks drug overdoses throughout the state of Pennsylvania. According to their data, autopsy reports revealed the presence of meth in 8% of overdose deaths in Luzerne County in 2018. The following year, 5 of the 34 overdoses in Lackawanna County involved the drug.

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