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A New Drug Scourge: Deaths Involving Meth Are Rising Fast



“I can’t treat people with schizophrenia,” Dr. Beaman said, “because I’m spending all my time treating people who are using meth.”

Shayla Divelbiss, 29, of Glenpool, Okla., considers herself lucky to be in good health now after using meth for six years, during which she ignored a thyroid condition and went days at a time without sleep. After waiting two harrowing months for a bed at 12 & 12, a treatment center for the poor and uninsured, she was able to stop.

“All the responsibilities of being a human just went out the window,” she said of her time on meth. “I quit cooking and eating. I had real bad anxiety. I was skin and bones.”

Daniel Raymond, the director of policy at the national Harm Reduction Coalition, said it was imperative to figure out exactly how meth users were dying so that cities and states could build public health strategies based on that knowledge. For now, those strategies include warning users about the risks of “overamping,” a word used to describe using too much meth, and the best ways to address it, like cooling down, drinking water and sleeping. Syringe exchanges have an important role for those who inject meth, he said, just as they do for opioid users.

At 12 & 12, a former hotel on the outskirts of Tulsa, 64 percent of the clients are addicted to meth, said Bryan Day, the chief executive. State lawmakers have agreed to give the center more money next year to add beds for meth patients and increase their average stay, which is about 30 days. He estimated that 4,000 people in the state need treatment for meth addiction but are not receiving it.

“My belief is that their judgment for a period of time is very, very skewed, leading to frightening choices and decisions and impulses,” Mr. Day said. “The brain takes time to heal. We don’t want to shortchange this population.”

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