Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New numbers show U.S. meth use plunging

Chicago Sun-Times

Washington (AP) - Good news in the fight against meth abuse came on two fronts Monday, with reports showing a major drop in methamphetamine lab seizures nationwide and a similar decline in the spread of the drug into the workplace.

Local law enforcement officials say there is still a strong appetite for the highly addictive drug and warned that meth makers in Mexico and other countries are moving to fill the supply void.

The number of meth lab busts plummeted more than 30 percent last year as most states put in place laws to restrict the sale of over-the-counter cold medicines used to make meth, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Meanwhile, the nation's largest drug testing company said the number of job applicants and workers who tested positive for meth plunged 31 percent over the first five months of this year.

Those figures are based on the results of more than 7 million drug tests in 2005 and about 3 million tests from January to May 2006, conducted by New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics.

White House drug policy director John Walters called the data an encouraging sign of progress. ''The practices that have been taking place in our states are working, not only on small toxic labs but also what we're trying to do with demand,'' said Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Illinois seizures down 15 percent

Meth lab seizures fell from 17,562 in 2004 to 12,185 last year, with states like Oklahoma, Montana and Washington seeing some of the sharpest declines. In Illinois, lab seizures fell 15 percent to 931.

Meanwhile, a study last week by the Sentencing Project -- a nonprofit group that supports alternatives to prison terms for convicted drug users -- concluded that reports about meth use are exaggerated.

Citing figures that show less than 1 percent of the nation's population uses meth, the group said meth abuse remains a ''highly localized'' problem compared with abuse of other drugs like cocaine.


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