HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Sharp Focus On Meth Danger
Pubdate: Tue, 07 Aug 2001
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2001 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Author: Vanessa Ho
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


It's 'Apocalypse Now,' McDermott Tells Conference On State's Urgent 
Drug Problem

More than 375 people, including police officers, treatment experts, 
federal lawmakers and the new head of the Drug Enforcement 
Administration, gathered yesterday for the state's first conference 
aimed at fighting an explosion of methamphetamine labs and dealers. 
In speech after speech, they lamented the grim numbers:

Washington ranks second in the country -- behind California -- for 
the number of meth lab busts.

Authorities expect to seize about 2,000 labs this year; in 1990, they 
seized 38.

Nearly 5,870 people sought treatment for methamphetamine addiction 
last year. And, in a recent state survey, 11 percent of high school 
seniors said they had tried the highly addictive drug at least once.

"This is 'Apocalypse Now,'" said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. "It is a 
quantum leap on anything we've done, or had to deal with in the past."

Speakers at the two-day meeting in Bellevue -- sponsored by the King 
County Sheriff's Office and Republican Rep. Jennifer Dunn -- deplored 
meth's spread into wilderness communities and southwest Washington, 
the danger of toxic waste and lab explosions, and the devastation to 

Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant that is smoked, snorted, 
injected or swallowed. It is commonly made in clandestine labs with 
such common items as a camping fuel, rock salt and cold medications 
containing ephedrine.

"This is a drug we do not want our children, our families and our 
society to have to deal with every day," Rep. Brian Baird said. A 
clinical psychologist, Baird recounted a patient's heartbreak over 
abandoning his children for addiction.

This year, the congressman formed a bipartisan meth caucus in 
Congress, which now has 75 members. Nationally, more than 8,460 labs 
were seized last year, a 154 percent increase in three years. Earlier 
this month, the caucus helped secure a $27 million for a federal 
program that targets "high-intensity" drug-trafficking areas.

A law enforcement crackdown in King and Pierce counties has pushed 
the problem into Clark, Cowlitz and Lewis counties. Last year, 
authorities in those counties seized 73 labs, a 429 percent increase 
since 1997. In the first four months of this year, authorities busted 
57 labs.

"It's like squeezing a balloon," Baird said.

Dunn, whose district includes east King County and rural Pierce 
County, said dangerous mobile meth labs are moving into small, 
forested communities near Mount Rainier, confounding police and 
polluting the landscape.

"The disposal problem of meth residue being dumped into our pristine 
rivers is very troubling," she said.

Home to one-third of the state's lab busts, Pierce County is still 
considered the "meth capital" of Washington. Twice as many meth users 
there seek treatment than in more populous King County.

In his first official appearance as the new head of the DEA, Asa 
Hutchinson noted several law-enforcement challenges in fighting meth:

Unlike cocaine and heroin, meth is manufactured locally. At the same 
time, Mexican drug cartels are muscling in on the trade. And the 
cleanup of labs -- at $2,000 to $4,000 per lab -- overwhelms most 
local agencies, Hutchinson said.

He encouraged more funding for drug courts, and like others, said 
treatment, prevention, and law-enforcement agencies must develop a 
coordinated strategy to fight meth. In particular, many people said 
more treatment is needed, especially in jails and prisons.

"Whenever a young person loses their way on meth," Hutchinson said, 
"America suffers an injury to the future."

State's Meth Problem

Police responses to labs, dump sites:

1997: 207

2000: 1,449

Users seeking treatment:

1994: 980

2000: 5,869

Sources: Washington Department of Ecology; governor's office
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