US Counties and Washington Disagree On Meth Threat

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Law enforcement officials in 500 counties across the United States agree that production and abuse of methamphetamine is an epidemic that deserves the same or more attention than marijuana and even domestic security and terrorism. The White House says that is an exaggeration.

US Counties and Washington Disagree On Meth Threat

The results of the survey conducted and presented by the National Association of Counties (NACo) comes in advance of the 2006 federal budget that cuts $804 million in funding to help local police agencies combat illegal drug use. The White House says funds previously provided under the Justice Assistance Program were cut because they “do not have a record of demonstrating results.”

The organization of counties was disappointed in the budget cuts, saying they need more money, not less. NACo claim the federal government’s zealous pursuit of domestic security and the fight against terror have diverted badly needed grants for fighting methamphetamines (meth).

In addition, says NACo, the federal government’s focus on marijuana is overweight and should shift to the more pressing rise in meth-related offences.

Jennifer DeVallance, White House Office of Drug Control Policy spokeswoman disagrees.

“You hear the word ‘epidemic’ thrown around quite a bit when you’re talking about meth. This is a major and significant problem, but it is not one that is out of control and it is not one that can’t be contained,” DeVallance told WebMD.

She also related that while there are an estimated 15 million regular users of marijuana in the United States, there are only 1 million meth users.

But according to the survey, most county officials don’t see marijuana as the problem. Fifty-eight percent reported that methamphetamine is the most serious drug problem they face. Cocaine was cited as the biggest problem by only 19%, and even less, 17% reported major problems with marijuana.

US Counties and Washington Disagree On Meth Threat

The results reflect a serious disconnect between local and federal authorities as to the seriousness of marijuana use and how much funding and focus is appropriate. Currently, the bulk of funds allocated to drug prevention focus on media campaigns to discourage children and teens from using marijuana.

“We’re not saying that that’s misplaced or that they shouldn’t be doing this,” said Larry Naake, executive director of the association, “but we think that there is now an epidemic that needs to get their attention because it’s just as serious, if not more serious, because of the overall consequences of it.”

Some of the consequences of methamphetamine abuse cited in the survey were rising child neglect cases, domestic violence arrests, overdoses, and poisonings and burns from meth laboratories.

Of 303 counties, 40% reported an increase in children being taken from homes by child services because meth related occurrences.

Methamphetamines are drugs often manufactured in home labs, barns, and other out of the way locations. Though they are making their way into urban areas, they are primarily produced in rural areas with common farm chemicals using common antihistamines.

Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that allows users to explosive bursts of energy that may keep them awake for days on end. Consequently, coming down from the high can cause irritability and days of sleeping to recover.

NACo is hoping the survey will push legislators to restore funding for the fight against methamphetamines.

US Counties and Washington Disagree On Meth Threat
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