There’s been a recent spike in syphilis cases in the U.S. – rates more than doubled between 2013 and 2017 – and, according to a new study, methamphetamine, heroin and other injectable drugs are likely to blame.
The study: Researchers analyzed self-reported risk behaviors in heterosexual men and women, along with gay and bisexual men who were diagnosed with both primary and secondary syphilis. They discovered that the rate of syphilis jumped overall by 73 percent from 2013 to 2017. Among women, it increased a whopping more than 150 percent; 17 percent of women with syphilis used methamphetamine, 10.5% used injection drugs and 6% were found to be using heroin in the past 12 months. Among men, rates increased 66 percent.
“Two major public health issues are colliding,” Sarah Kidd, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of a new report, told The Denver Post.
The Link Between Drug Use and Syphilis
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a rise in syphilis due to drug use – it also occurred during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, according to the CDC.
This is because the use of drugs increases your risk of unsafe sexual behaviors that put you at a higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis. This includes avoiding condoms, having multiple partners or exchanging sex for drugs or money. People with substance use disorders are all less likely to seek medical help and may be less inclined to identify or find sex partners, which can result in delays in diagnosis and treatment.
Simply put: “The addiction takes over,” Patricia Kissinger, an epidemiology professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, told The Denver Post.
So, what’s the solution? Experts say the answer lies in simultaneously addressing our country’s meth-use and IV-use epidemic.
How to Spot a Meth User
Meth is a highly addictive drug. Dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain is heavily released when using meth – and dopamine, in particular, is released around 12 times more than that of other pleasurable activities like eating. Unlike other drugs, spotting a meth user may be fairly easy. In fact, there are some very specific physical and behavioral signs that come with meth abuse, including risky sexual behavior.
Here are a few more signs to watch for:
- Very talkative and babbling
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Hair loss
- Loosening skin/bad skin
- Rapid, darting eyes with dilated pupils
- Sweaty, trembling and shaking
- Tooth decay, A.K.A. “meth mouth”
- Skin lesions and sores that don’t go away in an appropriate amount of time
- Weight loss
- Absence from work or obligations/daily routines
- Unexplained financial problems
- Lack of appetite
- Disorganized thoughts
- Hallucinations or sensations that bugs are crawling under
- Insomnia (sometimes over long stretches)
Helping a Loved One With Meth Addiction
If you do in fact recognize an addiction or use of meth in someone you care about, know that it’s not too late for this person to live a better, sober life – and NorthStar Transitions can help. To learn more about our methamphetamine drug rehabilitation, call today: 303-558-6400.