NIH offered Grant to Study Methamphetamine’s Threat to Oral Health

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), contributed a $1.86 million grant to the University of California, Los Angeles’ School of Dentistry to lead a study on the hazards that methamphetamine use causes to oral and dental health. The projected four-year study focused on the higher rates of oral diseases among methamphetamine users and how the presence of serious dental diseases in patients could help identify methamphetamine users in the early stages of abuse since other medical signs of meth use were usually not manifested at the outset of abuse.

The study was led by Dr. Vivek Shetty, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at UCLA’s School of Dentistry. Dr. Shetty co-authored a report in the Journal of the American Dental Association on recognizing how severe oral disease plays a prevalent role in diagnosing methamphetamine abuse along with the other comorbid physical and adverse physiological reactions that are caused by this addiction. Dr. Shetty emphasized the unique ability of dental professionals to participate in the intervention process of drug abuse management upon discovering signs of methamphetamine use in their patients to help offer these individuals the medical assistance and support they badly require.

The study that was funded by The National Institute on Drug Abuse was also aimed at defining the burden to oral health and hygiene that methamphetamine use causes and to characterize how this problem had grown into a public health epidemic. The NIDA estimated that there were 850,000 Americans ages 12 and older in 2008 who had abused methamphetamine that year and that 10 million Americans have abused methamphetamine during their lifetime. The RAND Corporation estimates that methamphetamine abuse had cost the nation $23.4 billion, including costs for criminal justice, law enforcement, medical and emergency resources, premature deaths, loss of productivity, foster care, illicit production resulting in domestic disaster (i.e., home-made meth lab explosions), and treatment resources.

Aside from the severe dental problems caused by methamphetamine use (known as “meth mouth”), methamphetamine abusers can experience a range of physical symptoms, including increased alertness, wakefulness, sleep deprivation, increased blood pressure, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, hyperthermia, and decreased appetite. More serious long-term effects include anxiety, uncharacteristic moods, anger, aggressiveness, confusion, memory loss, extreme weight loss, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and irreversible brain damage. Methamphetamine abusers also have a higher risk of obtaining HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Methamphetamine addiction causes hundreds of premature deaths in the United States each year. With the integration of this new research funded by The National Institute on Drug Abuse, even medical practitioners in the dental profession can join the forefront of drug abuse prevention and intervention. In the worst case, the use of methamphetamine can lead you to enroll in an addiction treatment center where you will have to go for a full-fledged treatment plan. If you need to go for this option, you must make sure that you stick to the addiction rehab program. Take prompt action since the overdose of meth can cause death.

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