Meth overdose deaths jump exponentially on Guam

An average of nearly four people die on Guam every month from a meth overdose, according to Dr. Jeffrey Nine, the island’s chief medical examiner. As the CME, Dr. Nine determines causes of death on Guam, and signs and issues death certificates.

According to the CME in a mid-August email to Kandit, 24 people have died of methamphetamine – meth – overdose since the year began.

That is a 500 percent increase from the four recorded drug overdose deaths in 2021, according to the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services report, “Non-Natural Cause of Death Report. A Review of Guam Death Certificates from 2012-2021.”

The meth-related deaths so far in 2023 already exceeds the numbers of deaths related to motor vehicle accidents, murders, drownings, and any other category of non-natural causes of death. According to the data, at the rate of meth-related deaths this year, the death toll will surpass the 26 who died by suicide in 2021.

The 2023 death rate caused by meth overdose also outnumbers the total deaths caused by drug overdose for the period 2012 through 2021, according to the DPHSS epidemiological report.

Asked what causes his determination for meth overdose as a cause of death, Dr. Nine replied, “A positive drug test at postmortem investigation, without other cause of death.”

Methamphetamine hydrochloride, or the drug commonly known on Guam as ice, is a powerful and highly-addictive stimulant that has been the illegal drug of choice on island for the past three decades. According to the 2012 through 2021 data, the vast majority of overdoses that lead to death occurred in the age bracket of people between 25 and 64 years of age.

The drug is smoked, snorted, bumped through the rectum, or intravenously injected, and causes a powerful high before the drug user experiences a dramatic physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion as the drug wears off.

Hundreds of crimes each year for which police officers make arrests are linked to methamphetamine use and range from theft to domestic violence to murder.

While the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, with the assistance of local law enforcement assigned to its federal task force, has taken down home laboratories where meth has been manufactured on Guam over the years, the drug mainly is imported, either through the mail, or into the seaport.

The seaport is believed to be the primary method of meth importation, and the U.S. DEA, which has been relatively silent the past five years on Guam, is believed to be undertaking a major investigation targeting suspected drug lords and their associations with both corrupt law enforcement and public officials that have played a part in concealing the importation of the meth.

Dr. Nine is scheduled to discuss this matter further before the Guam Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

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