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A new report from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finds that methamphetamine (meth), marijuana, and heroin have all increased in strength in America. The rise in drug potency is in direct correlation with the continued opioid crisis, driven by the potency of opioids.
As drugs become more potent to match up with opioids, they also become more widely available based on their demand. Take methamphetamine, a psychostimulant, for example. Psychostimulants include not only meth, but also MDMA, caffeine (lethal in large doses), and other drugs that produce similar results in the user. In 2011, the amount of Americans who died with psychostimulants in their systems numbered around 2,300. Compare that with 2015, as the demand for opioid-like drugs grew, and the number of Americans who died with psychostimulants in their systems jumps to more than 5,700. It is unclear as to whether the increase in meth-overdose deaths is due simply to a rise in popularity, or also in part due to the rise in potency of the drug.
Marijuana is another drug that has seen a dramatic rise in potency in recent years. In 1996 the majority of DEA-seized marijuana contained a THC (the active ingredient) concentration hovering around 4%. The THC content has risen dramatically, hovering around 11% in 2015. While marijuana is not currently known to cause overdoses, the rise in THC can cause drug-users to get more intoxicated than they intend, potentially leading to difficulty driving and making other decisions.