Meth-related deaths increase in Santa Clara County

Meth Skull
Art By Thea Phillips

The death rate for methamphetamine has risen in Santa Clara County by 13% in the last year as the drug becomes increasingly popular for people 18 through 28.

In the last year, over 60% of drugrelated deaths in the county involved meth with 44.2% of them due to meth alone, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office.

In response, District Attorney Jeff Rosen and the Santa Clara Opioid Overdose Prevention Project have worked to combat the surge in meth use by providing Narcan — a drug that prevents overdoses — to law enforcement and first responders.

Mira Parwiz, a coalition lead in the SCCOOPP, said multiple reasons exist for the prominence of meth in the county.

“It’s so popular because of the ease of it: the use, how they make it and how easily it’s accessible to them,” Parwiz said. “It is something that people can often make in their kitchen sink, so it’s that easy for them.”

Parwiz also said social media has increased the accessibility of the drug by allowing teens and young adults to contact dealers online.

“It is readily available through social media, so you have teenagers who could go on Instagram (or) Snapchat and just order them and get it,” Parwiz said.

A junior meth user said that’s how he sets up his purchases. This junior only agreed to be interviewed if his name was not used because of the illegal nature of what he does.

“Usually (the sellers are) people with prescriptions or just people you know,” he said. “You add them. They add you back. Text them, ‘I need this much of this’ and they say, ‘OK, meet me here.’ (You) come in, give them the cash. They give it to you and leave, just as easy as that.”

Although the junior said he started using meth to help him stay focused while studying, other factors motivated his use of the drug as well.

“What prompted me to start would definitely be the lack of energy I was experiencing with other medications,” he said. “ I started using it because it provides hours of long everlasting focus and energy. There’s really nothing like it.”

Though meth may provide temporary energy for the user, Parwiz said that doesn’t outweigh the negative health issues for most users, including mental health issues like psychosis.

“Psychosis affects not only their mental health, but physical health,’’ Parwiz said. “It will take away from your ability to concentrate, study and continue with your daily life. All of those things get shattered when these drugs take over your life.”

The junior user said this is true.

“Anytime I wasn’t on it, there was a complete lack of energy,” he said. “I was so tired. I could not move or do anything except for things like going to the bathroom (and) eating. It created anxiety, frustration (and) anger. Just all your bad feelings multiplied to the max.”

In recent weeks, in response to the rise in meth use in the county, District Attorney Rosen has issued strong warnings against meth and other drugs, while Parwiz said the SCCOOPP has taken measures of its own to slow drug-related deaths in Santa Clara County.

“We’re taking this to social media, we’re doing campaigns, we’re doing outreach to high schools also,” Parwiz said.

In addition to spreading awareness, Parwiz said the SCCOOPP is also working to supply Narcan to as many schools in the county as possible.

“We have provided Narcan to a number of colleges and universities already, ‘’ Parwiz said. “But this year, we’re going to be hitting all the high schools, middle schools and elementary schools so they will have Narcan available and the training needed.”

Though meth use remains a problem in the district, Parwiz said the efforts of law agencies, SCCOOPP and firefighters appear to have a positive result.

“I know a couple of agencies who have reported that they have used (Narcan) and saved lives, so we are making an impact,” Parwiz said. “I don’t know how big, but we have definitely made an impact.”

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