ST. LOUIS - A highly potent methamphetamine hit the streets of St. Louis leading to an increase in overdose cases and lasting negative effects for some users. Professionals working in addiction services want to make people aware of the impact the drug is having.
Aaron Laxton with the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery on South Broadway works firsthand with individuals struggling with addiction. He said the drug has been around for the past six weeks with an estimated two to five overdoses in the past week.
“We’re out in the streets each and every day," said Laxton. "It’s not uncommon for me to see 90-100 people throughout the course of my day, and each and every one of them, they’re using.”
A spokesperson with the St. Louis Fire Department confirms an alert was sent out to its department about an increase in the presence of what is believed to be methamphetamine laced with fentanyl. Laxton said the drug causes users to be more animated and more emotional.
“It’s not uncommon to see someone who’s been awake for four, five, six days,” Laxton said.
The potency of the drug is causing some users to experience amphetamine psychosis leading to delusions and hallucinations. Laxton said users have described the effects of the drug as "worst," "extreme" and "horrible."
The negative effects of the drug can be lasting. Even after the person stops using, they may still have periods of delusional thinking, according to Laxton.
According to Dr. Fred Rottnek, Director of Community Medicine at St. Louis University, who also specialized in addiction treatment, these highly potent drugs cause the body to release a surge of dopamine which creates a euphoric feeling and may also lead to psychosis. Rottnek says the effects of this potent methamphetamine can last minutes to hours depending on the potency and the amount used.
“People might think they can handle what they’re taking, but it’s the unpredictability that is not only creating these horrible side effects, but it’s what’s pushing the metabolic aspects to the point that people can die from one use.”
It can be easy for some in the St. Louis area to think this problem does not impact them, but Laxton says this is a problem that ripples through the whole community.
“That’s someone’s child. That’s someone’s sibling. That’s someone’s mother or father, and the only thing that separates us and them is a good choice and a bad choice.”