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Various drugs on display during this week's psychostimulant symposium. Source: Commonwealth Media Services

A recent symposium on psychostimulants examined the potential for a spike in stimulant abuse, according to the Department of Drug and Alcohol programs (DDAP) and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The DDAP and the Drug Enforcement Agency's Liberty Mid-Atlantic High Intensity Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program offered leading experts in the drug and alcohol field to talk about public safety, using data to forecast trends, intervention and treatment, and prevention and education.

“One of the biggest takeaways from combating the opioid epidemic is that to make effective change in our communities it takes partnerships and dedication from the national, state, and local level,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “Today’s symposium is the beginning of partnerships to prevent a stimulant epidemic from permeating the lives of Pennsylvanians like the opioid crisis has. Together, we can ensure our drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs are equipped to provide high-quality services to Pennsylvanians in need.”

The symposium brought together members of law enforcement, criminal justice professionals, health care providers, emergency personnel, drug and alcohol providers, and stakeholders. 

“The effects of drugs in the stimulant class create new complexities for public safety, public health, and substance use and prevention for professionals like law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and treatment providers,” said Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA Executive Director Jeremiah A. Daley. “By partnering with DDAP to present this symposium, we aim to raise awareness among the many disciplines that can thwart the proliferation of these drugs, those who treat persons who are acutely or chronically impacted by them, and those who can educate others in their fields and their communities about the dangers they present.”

Pennsylvania’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic led to the realization that similar trends have emerged in the supply and use of prescription and illicit psychostimulants. There are many differences between opioid use disorder and methamphetamine and cocaine use disorder, however, requiring entirely different methods of treatment and support for overdose victims.

Individuals with stimulant use disorder are often wrongfully diagnosed as having a mental illness as opposed to substance use disorder. Effective treatments for stimulant usage are mostly behavioral therapies; there are currently no evidence-based medications.

“Our primary concern is the health and safety of Pennsylvanians,” said Smith. “We must be proactive in addressing these trends and work together to ensure individuals are receiving the appropriate services to treat their individual needs. This means educating first responders and law enforcement as to what they can expect when they are called to the scene, ensuring treatment providers and health care professionals can provide necessary care, and educating community stakeholders on proven prevention efforts. Together, we must all do our part.”