Meth Kills — And Evidence Points to Its Upswing in NYC

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OSBORNE meth kills cover IS

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | Deaths from methamphetamine overdoses increased 160 percent from 2013 to 2014 in New York City, according to data from the city health department.

The department reports that “methamphetamine-involved overdose deaths” went from 13 in 2013 to 34 in 2014. The department does not have final data on 2015 deaths. Ninety percent of the 2014 deaths were among men, and the greatest increase in deaths was among New Yorkers aged 35 to 54. In an email, the department wrote that 64 percent of the deaths were among whites, but did not supply other demographic information.

The data comes from a surveillance system that the health department maintains with the cooperation of hospital emergency departments that allows it to monitor increases and decreases in illnesses, deaths, and other public health conditions.

More potent crystal meth that is made and distributed by drug trafficking organizations in Mexico may be causing more deaths. As federal and state laws regulating the ingredients used to manufacture meth have made producing the drug in the US more difficult, the drug trafficking organizations are making purer methamphetamine and shipping it into the US. The speculation is that traffickers are flooding America with cheaper product to create demand.

It could also be that the deaths result from more crystal in New York City and more gay and bisexual men using the drug.

Perry Halkitis, founder of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies. | CENTER FOR HEALTH, IDENTITY, BEHAVIOR, AND PREVENTION STUDIES

Data from the National HIV Behavioral Health Survey that Peter Staley, a longtime AIDS activist, published on his blog on on February 2 indicate that meth use is increasing among men who have sex with men in the city.

The percentage of New York City gay and bisexual men in that survey reporting crystal use in the 12 months prior to taking the survey went from 13.8 percent in 2004 to 5.8 percent in 2008 to 4.3 percent in 2011 to 9.2 percent in 2014. Some of the increase may be due to researchers using different venues to recruit men for the study or changes in the demographics of the participants.

Other indicators support the view that there is more methamphetamine in New York City.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) told Gay City News that a measure of statewide drug seizures that the agency uses to make year-to-year comparisons is showing a significant increase in meth seized. The DEA seized 51 kilograms of crystal in 2014 and 56.7 kilograms in 2015.

In 2000, the agency seized less than a kilogram. Seizures climbed to 9.8 kilograms in 2005 and declined to 3.4 kilograms in 2010. The 2014 and 2015 seizures were typically bundled with large amounts of heroin and cocaine.

Other information also suggests that the availability of crystal in the city has increased.

Gay City News found 10 cases in federal court in Manhattan, some involving multiple defendants, dating to 2014 in which the defendants were charged with distributing crystal. The amounts the men were carrying at their arrests ranged from several hundred grams to multiple kilograms.

In 2004, 2005, and 2006, meth use among gay men in New York City received a burst of attention from AIDS and community groups, with the city and state funding anti-crystal campaigns. The DEA also made a series of high-profile arrests for meth distribution. Generally, the men in those earlier cases possessed far less crystal at their arrests than the amounts seen in the current cases.

Peter Staley, a longtime AIDS activist who was one of the key players in developing the state’s Plan to End AIDS blueprint.| SEAN BLACK
Peter Staley, a longtime AIDS activist who was one of the key players in developing the state’s Plan to End AIDS blueprint.| SEAN BLACK

The New York State Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, which prosecutes felony drug cases throughout the city, told Gay City News that its meth seizures went from 22.4 kilograms in 2014 to 41.3 kilograms in 2015.

“They tell you that it’s rising and it has epidemic possibilit­ies,” said Perry Halkitis, an associate dean at NYU’s College of Global Public Health and the founder of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies, referring to the DEA and city health department data. Halkitis has authored or co-authored more than 170 peer-reviewed journal articles on gay men’s health, including many studies of gay men and drug use.

If there are more meth users and more meth in New York City, it could have implications for the Plan to End AIDS, which aims to reduce new HIV infections from the current roughly 3,000 a year to 750 annually by 2020. Staley served on the task force that drafted the plan.

“It’s back to the drawing board,” Staley told Gay City News. “This is something New York State is going to have to add to its End the Epidemic portfolio. There’s no way to get to the numbers we want with an ongoing meth epidemic.”

In addition to the physical harm that it causes in users, meth is implicated in the spread of HIV because gay and bisexual men often use the drug in sexual networks. Meth use is associated with more condomless anal sex and greater risk for acquiring HIV. Men who are HIV-positive and using meth may have trouble adhering to their anti-HIV drugs, making them more likely to infect others.

“HIV incidence rates are double or triple among men who use methamphetamine, and it may be higher,” Halkitis said during a January 25 meeting with ACT UP.

The AIDS activist group recently created a committee to address meth use.

Should the state and city health departments and AIDS and community groups respond to crystal use among gay and bisexual men, those efforts will be complicated by the different needs and circumstances of African-American, white, Latino, and Asian men who use the drug. Halkitis’ research shows that African-American and white users tend to be poly-drug users, requiring any response to talk about more than just crystal. There is little research on drug use among Latino and Asian gay and bisexual men.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

nathan riley says:
Once again we find prohibition doesn't prohibit.
Feb. 5, 2016, 12:21 am
Marcelo Maia says:
Thanks Duncan, ACT UP NY created the Meth Group after an initial report about the possibility of a Meth Epidemic in NYC, especially among gay men. The alert was triggered by Dr David Fawcett, a psychologist from Ft Lauderdale, Fl, who read from his book “Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery” at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division at the LGBTQ Center in Manhattan on December 13, 2015. The ACT UP Meth group in working in coalition with CBO’s like GMHC, Housing Works and The Latino Commission on AIDS and several activists including Peter Staley. We are looking to engage other organizations working with HIV prevention as well as the Health departments of NYC and NY State. This is not just a local issue; meth use at epidemic levels among gay men is reported in every major city with large gay populations. As Dr Halkitis told us, meth is attractive to gay men and in particular to gay men of color because of social economic disparities, the homophobia we face and because of peer pressure. It is introduced to most during sex and creates a bond associating Meth, sex and pleasure. Meth has left the confines of most affluent gay neighborhoods in NYC and is now reported in all boroughs. ACT UP is conducting a teach out this Monday Feb 8 at the Center from 6 to 9 PM, touching 16 different subjects being Meth one of them. We will have the presence of health official from the City and State and other agencies, including HASA. The ACT UP Meth Group meets at the LGBT Center every Monday from 6 to 7 PM. We are not a support or CMA group, but created a safe space free of guilt, shame or bias and we are interested in data, policies, prevention and treatment. Marcelo Maia/ACT UP/Meth Group
Feb. 6, 2016, 1:27 pm
Fitzgerald Providence says:
Meth almost killed me. My last use left me with lost memories (Black outs), incoherent, tweaking (a total mess) like it was 1999, and out of control anger and emotions. Meth takes, takes, and takes until you are either in jail, in an institution, or dead. Seek help, get the word out, find some way to stop and help those addicts who need help.
Feb. 13, 2016, 6:34 am
Mme. Defarge says:
Not all crystal meth comes from Mexico. There are meth labs upstate, Long Island and yes, in NYC. While meth labs in upstate and Long Island tend to be owner operated, the meth labs in NYC are largely run by drug gangs. They are operated out of grocery stores and apartments. As with most indoor, hard drug venues, they remain largely ignored by law enforcement in NYC.
May 1, 2016, 3:56 am
Mammoth Surveillance says:
Shared! Shared! This is AWESOME stuff man! Thank you!
Aug. 30, 2016, 12:16 am
Fremont auto repair says:
You are right about this post. I Agree with you.
Sept. 13, 2016, 12:51 am
Jay says:
I know nyc good as far as the drug scene I have been to spots that ran like toys r us day shift,night shift managers ,lines I have never seen that with meth I think it's limited to small friend to friends down here.I hate to say anything that condones drug use but with the quality of cocaine at an all time low ,while price is crazy,if meth was around it would spread like wildfire.
Feb. 10, 2017, 7:20 am
adderallrehab says:
If we are getting to the point where we need more crystal meth rehab centers, the chances are that we need to change the drug culture. People need to know that it is okay to get help.
March 28, 2017, 3:43 pm
Briebazinet says:
This is getting out of control. Rehab centers in New York aren't going to be able to keep up, and if they can't, who can we rely on?
May 10, 2017, 2:33 pm
Gigi says:
I just wanna find where to buy it.....
May 8, 5:35 am

Comments closed.


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