In June, I had the chance to attend a conference in Seattle of some of the smartest minds in America when it comes to monitoring drug abuse. While each gave a presentation about cities and areas across the nation, I found particularly interesting just one sheet of paper that they passed around.
Across the top of the page, various drugs — cocaine, heroin, other opiates, meth, marijuana and synthetics — were listed. In each column below, each expert from the cities and areas listed the current trends — up, down, or otherwise — for each drug.
Please take a look at the page. But I’ll also provide a short synopsis of my own interpretation of it, as discussed at the Community Epidemiology Work Group in Seattle June 8-10.
Cocaine: Clearly down across the country. Its high price, even during the recession, has made it rather cost prohibitive for users, various epidemiologists pointed out at the meeting. There were a few exceptions: New York City and “vacationland” Maine, two of the richest areas of the country.
Heroin: Results were mixed but some areas have experienced a surge, including our own, which is denoted with “young adult,” being part of the trend. Readers of our paper will no doubt already know that heroin has experienced a huge resurgence here.
Other opiates: Wow. The country is clearly grappling with prescription pill addiction.
Meth: This one may surprise you. Though so much attention is given to this particularly dirty drug, most areas reported its use is stable or decreasing. So-called “precursor” laws have obviously had an impact in keeping meth’s key ingredient, pseudoephedrine, out of the hands that would cook it themselves. But more complex drug enterprises appear to have made up for that lack of mom-and-pop meth shops.
Marijuana: The results from the group were pretty clear. Marijuana continues to grow in use and abuse, achieving the “high” label amongst many of the epidemiologists present. The growing number of people who believe it should be legalized, or at least recognized as having medical benefits, continues to push the upward trend.
Synthetics: The group either needed more time to investigate or found that synthetics, be it PCP or MDMA, were on the rise.
Notice alcohol, not an illicit drug is not on the list. Yet this drug, above all others, is more abused than any other.
Note: The circling of some notes in the heroin column are mine, as I attended the conference when it was the main topic of conversation. Otherwise, it is each expert’s notes.