Our first National Conference on Addiction Disorders Panel Series event on the topic “Opioids and Stimulants: Addressing These Complex Cases,” held last week in Boca Raton, Fla., left several strong impressions about an emerging crisis:
Stimulant use clearly is on the rise in South Florida, and this bears watching elsewhere. There has been a heavy emphasis in this part of the country on methamphetamine use returning with a vengeance in the gay male community, but an attendee of last week's event who works in a Salvation Army treatment program in Broward County said she's seeing evidence of widespread meth use across numerous treatment populations.
Where there is use of stimulants, alcohol will follow. Our panelists pointed out that as the field examines trends in drug use patterns, it must never lose sight of what remains the most potent substance-related threat. “Most stimulant users will be doing a lot of drinking,” said Michael Weiner, PhD, a private-practice clinician at Veritas Palm Beach.
There is no “magic pill” for stimulant dependence, and chemical solutions aren't the only answer anyway. Many fear an uptick in stimulant use because there is no federally approved medication to treat stimulant dependence. Programs will have to get creative to help patients combat cravings. Katherine Whall, RN, director of nursing at Sunrise Detox's Lake Worth center, said her facility is trying to interest struggling patients in any activity that might help them cope in a healthy fashion, from yoga to horticulture.
Habits ingrained in society reinforce the stimulant problem. Whall described the dangers of a high-achievement mentality that drives use of dangerous stimulants among young people. It is wrapped up in “Do more, buy more, live fast, get ahead,” she said. The fast pace of life, even for the young, leaves her asking, “What about being a kid?”
We need to look to the schools for implementing solutions. Nithchel Marcelin-Joyce, director of the Sunshine Doctors Group at Treatment Management Behavioral Health, is working to introduce a prevention curriculum in the Martin County school district. She believes it will be important to counteract young people's belief that stimulants are somehow safer than opioids. Also, “We need to step back from teachers diagnosing a child,” a practice that encourages overprescribing of stimulants, she said.
The National Cocaine, Meth & Stimulant Summit is produced by the Institute for the Advancement of Behavioral Healthcare, the leading media and events producer in the behavioral healthcare field. The Institute also produces the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, the largest national annual gathering on the opioid crisis.