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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wellness Corner - October 2011

As part of our monthly discussion about community health issues from a “wellness” perspective, we would like to take a look this month at substance abuse, specifically local methamphetamine use.  We regularly hear reports of a “methamphetamine epidemic” in our country, and people who have experienced loved ones addicted to meth can attest to how disruptive it can be.  Since this is a big topic, we will discuss methamphetamine abuse in this issue.  Next month, we will focus on treatment.

Key findings from a report to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors from July 2006 include:
• Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and dangerous drug.
• Methamphetamine use rates in Sonoma County exceed national rates.
• Methamphetamine is readily available in Sonoma County. Most methamphetamine is imported from Mexico.
• The impact of methamphetamine use on County services and resources is significant.
• Treatment works. Sonoma County lacks sufficient treatment resources.

Methamphetamine Basics    
The drug itself is generally found as an odorless, bitter tasting, white powder.  It is taken orally, snorted, smoked, or injected.
Effects include:  increased wakefulness and physical activity, rapid heart rate, and increased body temperature. Long-term use can lead to mood disturbances, violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and severe dental problems. HIV and hepatitis are also risks for the user. Methamphetamine has a high addiction potential – estimated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at 47% at first use and rising to 60% with a second use.

Methamphetamine acts  mainly on the parts of the brain  that contain the neurotransmitter dopamine, due to similarities in their chemical signatures.  A very potent stimulant, amphetamine causes more dopamine release than other drugs, three times more than cocaine. The resulting extra sense of pleasure is followed by a “crash” that often leads to increased abuse of the drug and eventually to difficulty in feeling any pleasure at all.  Some changes in the brain from chronic use appear to be permanent, whereas other changes may repair after a period of abstinence.

Who is using it
The rate of methamphetamine use in California is twice as high as the national rate.

In the NSDUH survey, 1.2% of Californians reported using methamphetamine in the past 12 months, and 0.6% reported use in the past month. Extrapolating from the California rates, over 4,800 Sonoma County residents aged 12 or older are likely to have used methamphetamine in the past year, and about 2,400 residents are likely to have used in the last 30 days

Recent studies show that 4% of Sonoma County 9th graders and 6% of 11th graders report having used methamphetamine one or more times; in the past 30 days, the rate of use was 2% each for 9th and 11th graders.  By comparison, 31% of Sonoma County 9th graders and 48% of 11th graders reported having had at least one drink in the last 30 days, and 16% of 9th graders and 28% of 11th graders reported using marijuana in the last month.

Community Impact
“The public impacts of methamphetamine addiction include increased levels of crime and violence, child endangerment, environmental degradation, and serious negative health outcomes. The use, abuse, distribution, and consequences of methamphetamine are taking a significant toll on public resources across a wide spectrum of service systems in Sonoma County including health care, criminal justice, alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment, social services, mental health, and prevention.” (From Report to County Supervisors).

New Program in West County
Drug Abuse Alternatives Center (DAAC), in collaboration with the West County Health Centers, is starting a new weekly outpatient group treatment program for patients with alcohol and other drug problems.  This is open to the community and is located at our new Wellness Center site in Forestville.  Please call 887-0290 for more information.