Pubdate: Thu, 21 Dec 2006
Source: Salt Lake City Weekly (UT)
Copyright: 2006 Copperfield Publishing
Author: Ben Fulton


Kudos to Gov. Huntsman for Giving Methamphetamine Addiction the 
Attention It Deserves.

Here are some facts about U.S. drug enforcement law, and illegal 
drugs, you may or may not be aware of:

Despite the fact that it's darned hard on your lungs compared to 
mainstream tobacco, marijuana's toxicity is less than half that of 
heroin or cocaine. Despite the fact that millions of baby boomers 
have inhaled marijuana's mind-altering active chemicals, these same 
people are hardly seeking treatment for addiction. Although 
psychologically addictive--along with television, desserts and other 
items offered legally in our society--the evidence that marijuana 
poses any physiological addictive threat is scant at best. In fact, 
there's strong evidence it's effective in treating cancer, AIDS, 
glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. How curious, then, that the Federal 
Drug Administration licensed a drug called Marinol that mimics 
marijuana's medicinal effects, even as it prohibits any medical 
testing of marijuana's benefits. Even the UK's straight-laced 
Economist magazine chimed in as of late. "Marijuana is medically 
useful, whether politicians like it or not," it wrote.

It gets far stranger. Under the dictates of the Controlled Substances 
Act, marijuana remains on the federal list of hard-core Schedule 1 
drugs, right up there with heroin and LSD. Incredibly, our government 
believes cocaine, a far more toxic substance than marijuana, is 
somehow less addictive than the old Mary Jane. So they place Freud's 
friendly white powder, which is also deemed to have "accepted medical 
use in treatment" by the way, next to good old amphetamine on Schedule 2.

You got that right, folks. Our government believes marijuana's more 
addictive, more toxic, and therefore more worthy of our fear and 
attention than either cocaine or methamphetamine. It makes you wonder 
who, exactly, is on drugs.

Now, this isn't a column espousing the legalization or use of 
marijuana. I'm not out to see American families sharing bong hits 
round the fireplace and Old Glory woven in hemp. No, this column 
concerns the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's ludicrous, 
disproportional attention given to eradicating marijuana use when it 
should instead combat the most horrific illegal drug now sinking its 
teeth and claws into our nation's populace. That drug is, of course, 

For better or for worse, marijuana use among millions of Americans is 
a permanent fixture. Just how huge is the market? Try $35.8 billion 
huge, according to one marijuana public policy analyst. It outstrips 
the markets for corn, soybeans and hay. People smoke it at parties, 
laugh about tripping over the carpet, then binge on munchies. No one 
should drive under its influence, and it might kill any ambition your 
child had of becoming valedictorian, but no one can deny that legions 
of Jamaican musicians have written some amazing reggae and dub tunes 
between tokes.

Then there's methamphetamine, a drug so powerful it causes psychotic 
hallucinations, high-blood pressure, paralytic depression, kidney 
disorders, malnutrition, liver and brain damage. Used long enough, it 
drains calcium from the human body at such a rate that users crush 
whole teeth chewing white bread. Chemicals used to produce it are 
toxic enough to make homes in which it's manufactured inhabitable.

It's estimated that people addicted to this poison need at least 18 
months of steady treatment to extricate themselves from its grips. 
Even then, some counselors, held in thrall to the drug's addictive 
powers, estimate that only one out of every 100 meth users ever kicks 
the habit completely. Its ability to destroy the brain's pleasure 
center of neurotransmitters is so thorough and ravaging, some users 
lose the ability to enjoy a good meal, smile upon greeting a friend 
or appreciate a good book.

Along with Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas, Utah ranks among 
one of 18 states where meth treatment rates are higher than the 
national average, according to a report issued this year by the 
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Say the word "meth addict" and the image of an aging, middle-age 
biker or truck driver usually comes to mind. It's no accident, 
however, that a young local filmmaker recently made her entry into 
the 2007 Sundance Film Festival with a 22-minute documentary about 
Utah mothers struggling with methamphetamine addiction. According to 
figures from the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, 
women, two thirds of them with children, make up 80 percent of the 
state's meth rehab patients. In Nebraska, it's estimated that half of 
the 6,000 children in that state's Foster Care system are due to the 
meth addiction of their mothers.

The tragedy of meth abuse, then, is that this fiercest and most 
dangerous of all illegal drugs reaches into the most vulnerable, and 
fastest-growing, demographic of our society--that of single mothers 
fending for themselves. Meth gives them the energy needed to care for 
a family, with the added "benefit" of rapid weight loss--until the 
entire show comes crashing down.

Maybe it's the benefit of a generous budget surplus that gives him 
the option, but Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and his wife should be 
commended for giving this true drug problem the attention it's long 
warranted. With $5.1 million annually to place women in meth 
treatment programs, along with $2 million for a new statewide meth 
awareness program, this is hopefully the start of a permanent trend. 
Huntsman's proposal is already far more generous and rational than 
the federal government's, which portions a paltry $25 million for 
meth abuse recovery services against a mammoth, $2.4 billion 
apportioned to the DEA, most of which, we can be certain, will be 
used to prevent marijuana from making its way to the frat party 
instead of helping single mothers survive.
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MAP posted-by: Elaine