Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jan 2005
Source: Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Copyright: 2005 Sun Publishing Co.
Note: apparent 150 word limit on LTEs
Author: Martha Irvine The Associated Press


CHICAGO - Already known as a rural scourge, methamphetamine is becoming
a problem in a number of U.S. cities.

Meetings of the 12-step group Crystal Meth Anonymous have increased in
Chicago from one night a week a few years ago to five nights a week.

In the Atlanta area, methamphetamine users account for the
fastest-growing segment of addicts seeking treatment. Rehabilitation
centers there are seeing an uptick in the number of women meth
addicts, and officials in Minneapolis-St. Paul say they are treating
an alarming number of meth users younger than 18.

"Most people just think it happens in the farmlands and the prairies
or out back behind the barn," says Carol Falkowski, director of
research communications at the Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota.

But that's not the case anymore.

Falkowski found that meth addicts now represent about 10 percent of
patients admitted to drug-treatment programs in the Twin Cities,
compared with 7.5 percent a year ago and about 3 percent in 1998.

About a fifth of those meth users who sought help in the past year
were minors.

She and other experts who track urban drug trends for the National
Institute on Drug Abuse are meeting this week in Long Beach, Calif.,
to present their findings.

Some have noted a big jump in the use of meth, particularly in its
potent crystal form, in the past six months to a year.

"It's the new major drug threat," says Jim Hall, director of the
Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova
Southeastern University in Florida.

He monitors drug use for the national institute in Fort Lauderdale,
Fla., and Miami, where crystal meth often is more sought after than
Ecstasy and cocaine.

"Here, it's almost like the early days of cocaine, when cocaine was
the chic, expensive champagne of street drugs," says Hall, noting that
many users come to Miami's trendy South Beach strip in search of the
purest, most expensive meth available.

Methamphetamine, long a problem on the West Coast, made its way across
the country in the past decade, often taking hold in rural areas,
where it usually is made because the process creates a noticeable stench.

Increasingly, drug-enforcement officials say mass quantities also are
being shipped cross country from "superlabs" in the Southwest and Mexico.

Experts say the drug started to catch on in urban areas in the club
and rave scenes and sometimes among particular populations, such as
gay men. That's been the case in such cities as Washington and
Chicago, says Thomas Lyons, a research associate with the Great Cities
Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Often, Lyons says, meth use has been associated with increases in
sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

One recovering addict who helps organize Chicago's Crystal Meth
Anonymous meetings confirms that the gatherings are frequented by gay
men - but he says that, increasingly, he's seeing people from other

Experts elsewhere say their populations of meth users are
diversifying, too.

Claire Sterk, an Emory University professor who tracks Atlanta's
numbers for the national institute, says that although meth users
there traditionally have been white, there are early signs that meth
is making its way into the city's black and Hispanic

Experts in other cities have noted that some young women are using
methamphetamine as a way to lose weight. 
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