March 08, 2006

THE METH MONSTER

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

She was sixteen--the age when many teenage girls are involved sports, music, school, church, close friendships and first dates. This would have been her... Was it just a year ago, maybe 18 months? How things had changed--standing in the county jail, eyes sunken, hair patchy, skin covered in open sores, rail thin, waiting for her brand-new baby to be taken for medical care for methamphetamine addiction and then foster care. What had she done? It was just a little hit less than two years agoâ?¦This is a true story--an Idaho story and, tragically, not an isolated occurrence. Law enforcement tells of inmates in jails who, in meth-induced paranoias, stay awake for days, savagely banging on the bars and screaming. The result for some is brain damage, requiring constant treatment for the remainder of their debilitated lives. Meth is incredibly dangerous. Addictive after the first experience, the high is never as strong as the first time, requiring progressively more to achieve the same feeling. Furthermore, as we learn more about this terrifying drug, we are discovering that traditional drug rehabilitation is ineffective; meth requires much longer treatmentâ??years, in fact.Law enforcement, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and state, county and local agencies are working around the clock to fight this monster of a drug. In the past five years, many home labs have been seized--good news for communities and for innocent children contaminated by meth, either from second hand smoke or through residue on furniture and rugs. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare operates treatment programs around the state. Concerned individuals and organizations are forming local citizen task forces to meet the specific needs of their community. Unfortunately, high seizure rates have sparked an increase in imported, concentrated meth from â??superlabs,â?? predominantly in Mexico. It reaches larger cities and is distributed to smaller communities around the state. This must be dealt with at all levels: federal, state and local. This month, the federal government took additional steps to combat meth. Provisions in the newly-reauthorized Patriot Act include:-Major non-prescription drugs containing chemicals used in making meth must be kept behind the counter or in a locked cabinet.-There are new restrictions on mail order, Internet and flea market sales of these products.-Major meth precursor exporters and importers must report transactions and are held accountable for efforts to prevent diversion to meth production.-Funding has been authorized for cooperative efforts with Mexico to stop meth production there.-Federal penalties against meth traffickers and smugglers and those who who cook or deal meth in the presence of children have been strengthened.-The drug courts program is enhanced to ensure greater accountability, and new funding has been authorized.-Meth â??hot spotsâ?? grant program, providing assistance to state and local agencies has been authorized.-Grants to help states assist drug-endangered children and addicted women with children have been authorized.The key is early intervention and strong penalties for breaking the law. Over their lifetime, a meth user will likely incur long-term mental and physical health costs, incarceration and rehabilitation costs that will be borne by society. It only makes sense to be proactive in this fight. The outlook isnâ??t completely bleak. The young woman in the beginning has been clean for a few months now. Strong intervention and prevention mechanisms, can bring her back to life. With the help of all levels of government, concerned parents and friends, we can rid our communities of this deadly drug. To get more information, contact your local government officials or any of my offices. Word Count: 596