You’re probably aware of the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic in New Jersey but you might not realize there’s another drug problem that is also getting worse.

Methamphetamine use is on the rise, especially in southern parts of the Garden State.

“It is something that used to be characterized as a rural or a biker drug, but I can tell you that since its comeback it has made its way into the urban communities as well,” said Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner. “We’ve been tracking the increased abuse of methamphetamine for the past three years.”

Meth had almost disappeared a few years ago and confiscation levels had dropped significantly. But recently, he said, “we’ve seen that number more than quadruple over the past three or four years.”

“It’s very cheap and inexpensive to make and unfortunately that’s what is posing a problem.”

Meth is a stimulant that can be smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected. The drug increases dopamine in the brain, which encourages users to repeatedly seek the high.

Short-term effects include rapid breathing, wakefulness, rapid heartbeat and increased body temperature. Long-term effects include increased risk for infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, partially as a result of impaired decision making that leads to risky behaviors. Meth use also causes severe dental problems ("meth mouth"), unhealthy weight loss, itching, anxiety, confusion, sleep loss, paranoia and hallucinations.

"The current situation is very concerning because what we’re seeing is that meth stimulants are exceeding opioids at this point for first-time users experimenting with illicit drugs,” said Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

He noted meth overdose deaths have risen sharply over the past six years, “so there’s no question that we are seeing meth is becoming more of an issue.”

Compounding the problem is anyone can now learn how to make meth by watching videos online.

“Through education and through treatment I think we can see a way in which we can address this issue head-on," Valente said.

Tyner pointed out the increase abuse of meth and other dangerous substances “have a significant impact on our society and it raises the cost of living for everyone, as people have increased medical needs.”

He said education efforts are being stepped up and information forums about meth are being held at different businesses across the region.

He noted most people are aware you can easily get hooked on heroin and “they don’t think that meth is as addictive, but unfortunately it is, and they learn the hard way.”

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