Pubdate: Tue, 21 Nov 2006
Source: Times, The (Fairfax County, VA)
Copyright: 2006 Times Community Newspapers
Author: Mike Townsend
Note: Mr. Townsend is the Executive vice president and director of 
the Methamphetamine Demand Reduction Program for The Partnership for 
a Drug-Free America
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The U.S. Department of Justice has declared Thursday, Nov. 30, 
National Meth Awareness Day, an opportunity to collectively address a 
threat of increasing concern to Northern Virginia communities: abuse 
of the highly addictive drug methamphetamine.

Surveying the devastation meth has brought to regions of the West and 
Midwest, Northern Virginia is comparatively fortunate. The area has 
yet to feel the full force of meth, a drug that breeds crime and 
violence, saps law enforcement and health care resources, and is 
associated with heartbreaking child abuse and neglect.

However, it would be naive to expect that the affluence or desirable 
location of neighborhoods will be enough to keep this drug from 
taking hold. Concerted efforts to raise awareness and mobilize the 
community are imperative to preventing meth from spreading further.

Meth has made slow but steady inroads already. While meth lab 
incidents are low - two meth labs were seized in Prince William 
County over the past three years and the total number of lab 
incidents in the state this year to date has totaled 11 - the 
availability of imported meth from Mexico is increasing. Arrests for 
meth possession in Northern Virginia suggest an increasing demand for 
this dangerous drug.

Meth users are violent and paranoid and pose a danger to themselves 
and others. In Fairfax, a man was recently arrested after he set 
himself on fire, suffering from severe hallucinations induced by a 
days-long meth binge.

Encounters like these have only steeled determination to reverse this 
trend, but meth cannot be shut out through law enforcement alone - 
parents and concerned citizens play a vital role in turning the tide 
on meth by learning about this threat and spreading the word.

The Prince William and Fairfax County police departments, along with 
local substance abuse treatment and prevention professionals and the 
Partnership for a Drug-Free America, are participating in a new 
community outreach program called Meth360. Visiting local Rotary and 
Lions clubs, hospitals, citizens' advisory councils, churches and 
other business and civic organizations, Meth360 teams are delivering 
meth prevention presentations throughout Northern Virginia. Since 
July, more than 700 residents have been educated about the dangerous 
realities of meth and challenged to educate others in the community, 
starting in their own homes.

Parents are the cornerstone of drug use prevention. Research shows 
that teens who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home - from a 
parent, mentor or caring adult - are up to 50 percent less likely to 
use drugs. Building a future safe from meth means ensuring that our 
children are well informed and equipped to make healthy decisions 
about drug use. Every parent has the responsibility to take time to 
learn about meth and other drugs and pass the information along 
through frequent, open conversations with their kids.

Meth is a costly problem for communities, both socially and 
economically, but community action is a powerful tool to help keep 
meth at bay. Concerned citizens can engage the business and health 
care communities, local leaders and media in their efforts to raise 
awareness about methamphetamine. Volunteer opportunities through 
faith-based organizations, schools or community services boards are 
another powerful way to reach others who will benefit from learning 
about the risks of meth. Within the workplace and neighborhoods, 
spreading awareness of the signs and symptoms of meth use and 
production increases public safety and may encourage someone in need 
of help for meth addiction to seek treatment.

Meth has brought unfathomable damage and devastation to hundreds of 
communities across the country. Armed with the lessons learned from 
the hardship of others, no one in Northern Virginia should remain 
unaware or unconvinced that you can, and must, protect the families 
and communities of tomorrow from the methamphetamine scourge. 
Collectively, we all can make a difference.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake