Pubdate: Wed, 30 Mar 2005
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2005 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Bill Poovey, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Governor Given Credit For Taking Hard Line On State's Drug Problem

NASHVILLE - A top federal drug official Tuesday toured a regional burn
center where a third of the patients were injured by fires and
explosions in clandestine methamphetamine labs.

Doctors say such cases are showing up every day and driving up the
medical costs for everyone. The costs of treating critically injured
burn victims typically exceed $10,000 a day, and most meth patients
don't have health insurance.

=09 "As bad as this may sound, as a burn doctor I almost wish another
drug, one less volatile that doesn't regularly explode during the
manufacturing process, would come down the pike to overtake the
popularity of meth," said Dr. Jeff Guy, director of the Vanderbilt
University Medical Center regional burn center.

Joseph Keefe, deputy director of the Office on National Drug Control
Policy, toured the burn center, where seven of the 20 patients were
admitted with what law enforcement authorities believe were
meth-related burns.

Standing in the doorway of one burn patient's room, Guy told Keefe the
man previously spent 45 days in a hospital from an October meth blast
and "has gone out and blown himself up again."

Guy said the man has been in the burn unit about 30 days from the
second injury, and his medical costs to date total about $240,000. He
said such victims often end up collecting disability.

The doctor said the hospital is obligated to treat any injured people,
even from other states.

Guy said one severe burn case involved a child who was injured inside
a trailer where someone cooking meth had lined interior walls with
plastic to trap the odorous, toxic fumes.

"We are seeing kids in meth labs," he said.

Keefe, who was in Nashville to attend a state conference on meth,
described what he saw in the burn unit as "devastating."

Between October 2003 and August 2004, the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration broke up about 1,200 clandestine meth labs in
Tennessee, a nearly 400 percent increase from 2000. Also, Tennessee
removed an estimated 750 children from the custody of meth abusers
last year, up from 2003.

Ingredients cooked to make the drug include common cold medicines and
workplace chemicals. Even when labs don't explode, the toxic vapors
contaminate property and can cause health problems.

Keefe commended Gov. Phil Bredesen and Tennessee lawmakers for
approaching the drug problem with tougher criminal laws, public
education and addiction treatment.

Tennessee's new meth-fighting measures, recommendations from a task
force appointed by Bredesen, would move certain cold medicines that
contain pseudoephedrine behind pharmacy counters.

The governor recommended spending about $7 million for all his meth
initiatives, including $2.4 million to cover jail time due to
increased criminal penalties, $1.7 million to start a drug court pilot
project, $1.5 million for a public awareness campaign and $600,000 to
provide training for law enforcement and other first responders.
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