Meth boom crowding drug treatment clinics
By Sam Hananel
By Sam Hananel
WASHINGTON — Drug treatment centers have seen a substantial rise in the number of people seeking help for methamphetamine abuse, according to a report released yesterday.
As trafficking in the highly addictive drug has spread across the country, the number of meth users admitted to substance abuse clinics more than quadrupled from 1993 to 2003, according to a review by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Eighteen states had meth treatment rates higher than the national rate, according to the report. Hawai'i had the second-highest rate, behind only Oregon.
The report was released hours before the Senate passed legislation — as part of the bill reauthorizing the USA Patriot Act — to limit sales of cold medicines that can be used to make the illegal meth.
States in the Midwest and South that had few meth abuse patients a decade ago are now seeing a sharp rise in admissions to treatment centers, the report said. The findings mirror the trend of meth abuse moving gradually from the western states — where the drug first became popular — across the Midwest and South to the East Coast.
"It's not that the prevalence of meth is changing, but the addictive nature of this drug and the meth crisis is showing up in drug treatment programs," said Mark Weber, an associate administrator for the agency. "They're being overwhelmed by the number of people showing up for treatment."
Nationwide, admissions for treatment of methamphetamine or amphetamine abuse rose from 28,000 in 1993 to nearly 136,000 patients in 2003, the report said. The review analyzed data on the approximately 1.8 million patients admitted each year for substance abuse treatment.
According to the report, the 16 other states, after Oregon and Hawai'i, that had meth treatment rates higher than the national rate were Iowa, California, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Montana, Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, Missouri, Idaho and Kansas.
Northeastern states had relatively low rates of treatment admissions for meth and amphetamine abuse in 1993 and those rates remained low in 2003, the report said.
CURB ON COLD MEDICINE
The anti-meth measure would restrict the sale of common cold products containing pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient used in making meth, and require that they be placed behind store counters. It is the first time Congress has approved a comprehensive bill to try to stem the use and production of meth.
Consumers would be limited to purchasing 3.6 grams — about 120 pseudoephedrine pills — per day, or 300 pills per month. Buyers also would have to show photo identification and sign a logbook.
The measure also provides $119 million a year to states for local law enforcement to combat meth and social service agencies to assist children victimized by the drug. Criminal penalties would be stiffer under the bill for meth traffickers and makers and those who endanger children in the production and sale of the drug.
The meth provision was attached to the anti-terror bill as a legislative strategy to help ensure that Congress would approve it — and do so in a timely fashion, sponsors said. Certain provisions of the Patriot Act would have expired next Friday without congressional action.
The House is expected to pass the Patriot Act next week and send it to President Bush, who has promised to sign it.
"Because of the steps we are taking, many Americans will never experience the addiction and destruction of this deadly drug," said Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., who co-sponsored the anti-meth bill with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
CHEAP AND EASY
Part of the reason meth has become epidemic in some states, experts say, is that it's easy to make in illegal makeshift labs and extremely cheap compared to other drugs.
"You get can get addicted to meth very quickly and the slide downward is much faster than drugs like alcohol, marijuana or heroin," said Stephan Arndt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and director of the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation.
"These people crash and burn fast," Arndt said. "Health goes down, you're not eating, you're not sleeping. You're more likely to lose the car, lose the wife, lose the house and your job."
In his budget request last month, Bush proposed $25 million in new money for meth treatment.
Gannett News Service contributed to this report.