Pubdate: Wed, 20 Oct 2004
Source: Jackson Sun News (TN)
Copyright: 2004 The Jackson Sun
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Better late than never. With just weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election, 
it was encouraging to see both Republicans and Democrats weighing in last 
week on the growing scourge of methamphetamine. But meth is a problem that 
should transcend partisan politics. Meth is a serious health problem that 
merits federal intervention.

Meth is a growing problem, not just in Tennessee and the Southeast, but 
across the country. Meth affects rural areas, as well as urban; rich areas 
as well as poor. It's easy to make. It produces a powerful high and is 
almost instantly addictive.

The federal government should approach this problem much as it approached 
the "War on Drugs" during the 1980s. It should marshal its considerable 
resources and focus on four main areas: Restricting access to ingredients, 
education, tougher penalties and treatment.

Restricting access to ingredients is the No. 1 thing the government can do 
to fight meth. Oklahoma already has a tough, but effective, law that puts 
medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine behind pharmacy counters 
and requires a photo ID and signature to purchase. The problem is, Oklahoma 
is just one state. A federal law is needed to make those provisions universal.

The government also should undertake a massive education campaign. 
Americans need to know that while meth produces a powerful, long-lasting 
high, it is almost instantly addictive. They need to know that the average 
life expectancy of a meth user is about two to five years. And they need to 
know that meth's dangers extend beyond the user, contaminating everything 
it touches.

Tougher penalties and treatment should be the final two prongs of the 
government's battle plan. In Tennessee last year, penalties for meth 
production and possession were toughened to bring them more in line with 
other drugs. The same should be done in other states.

As for treatment, it is perhaps the hardest, but most effective way to 
defeat meth. Breaking the cycle of addiction allows users to become 
productive citizens again. It reduces states' needs to constantly build new 
jails. And in the long run, it saves states money.

The meth battle shouldn't be left only to states. The federal government 
has the ability, and the moral responsibility, to do its part. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D