MILWAUKEE — An old drug is resurfacing in a new way here in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office says deaths from methamphetamines are rising at an alarming rate.
Jessica Przybylski never thought she would try meth, let alone become addicted to it. But the mother of two says that’s exactly what happened and meth proceeded to steal everything from her.
“It ruined everything about my life. I lost my kids. I lost myself. I lost my job, basically, threw my college degree out the window,” said Przybylski.
Przybylski lives in Chippewa Falls, an area that has seen a spike in methamphetamine death cases. She tried the drug for the first time 10 years ago to help cope with the death of someone close to her.
“I was having a hard time and you know, 'here, this is going to make you feel better and you won't think about this anymore,'” said Przybylski.
After that first use, Przybylski told herself she could do it just on the weekends or at parties. But it quickly spiraled.
Przybylski shared these mugshots with TMJ4 News, wanting people to know this was how she changed physically from using meth. She says she lost weight, teeth and the people she loved.
“You know I lost my family. I didn't talk to my brother for probably four years,” said Przybylski.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office's Sara Schreiber says between 2006 to 2016, there were a total of five overdose deaths from meth. Most years, there were none. Since 2017, there have been at least 50 cases. That is a 900 percent increase in just five years.
“We are seeing quite a bit of methamphetamine and that, unfortunately, is also being used in combination with fentanyl or another opioid, so that that incidence is definitely rising,” said Schreiber.
Just this year, eight people died in Milwaukee County due to overdosing on meth. The drug is suspected as the cause in 22 more deaths. That is a total of 30 deaths.
That’s almost the same total, 31, for all of 2020 and it is not even half way through the year.
“There are a few things that that contribute to that. One seems to be that as people stop using prescription opioids, they switched to illegal substances, and meth may be one of them,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.
He says the meth being used in Wisconsin right now is being brought in from out of state.
“Meth seems to be primarily being trafficked right now from other countries into the United States, and it could be sent through the mail. For example in northwestern Wisconsin, a lot of it comes through Minneapolis. In southeastern Wisconsin, Chicago may be a more likely route,” said Kaul.
Rogers Behavioral Health director of addiction services, Michelle Maloney, points to the pandemic as part of the reason meth is now in areas it wasn’t before, like Milwaukee County.
“We've seen an increase in some substances, while a decrease in others, so methamphetamine tends to be,” said Maloney.
She says many people use meth for the euphoric feeling it gives them, but she says it also causes real mental health issues as well.
“The way it interacts in your brain, it also creates impulsivity, so individuals tend to be admitted into psychiatric hospitals under mental health reasons,” said Maloney.
For Przybylski, who now works with people trying to get off meth, she knows one of the reasons why it is so attractive.
“I think it is cheap, for one,” said Przybylski.
It took multiple attempts at quitting, including doing a drug court recovery program in Chippewa County and a long-term, in-patient treatment before Przybylski got off meth.
She is now five years clean and makes it her mission to warn others about the dangers of using meth to deal with a hard time in your life.
“It’s not worth it. There are so many other options,” said Przybylski.
If you need help for addiction, you can call the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to be connected to resources. The number is 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357). Or you can also contact the National Drug Hotline at 1-844-289-0879.