Today I testified at a hearing that discussed funding for methamphetamine addiction and treatment. It was important for me to attend this hearing because Nevada has a significant meth problem. Not only is it important to treat addicts, but we must give law enforcement the resources necessary to attack the problem at the source. Following is the statement I made today at the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill:
“Many Americans believe the war on drugs is something that is only taking place in our cities, on our boarders and in the jungles of South America. The truth is methamphetamine abuse is everywhere, but its effects are felt particularly hard in largely rural states like Nevada. It is made in clandestine labs in small town America or smuggled in from Mexico and Canada. It’s readily available, cheap and is abused by people of all races, economic and social backgrounds.
“According to the Nevada Department of Education, over twelve and a half percent of Nevada’s high school students have used methamphetamines. In 2004, forty percent of individuals admitted into treatment programs funded by the Nevada Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse had used methamphetamines, and approximately five thousand Nevadans received treatment for meth addiction. I have been told that the estimated number of meth users who have not received treatment may be eight times that amount–that’s forty thousand Nevadans!
“To tackle a problem of this size and voracity, we have to approach it from every angle–law enforcement, prevention and treatment. The President’s budget for FY06 cuts the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA) funding by 56%. This funding must not be cut. The HIDTAs work to reduce drug-trafficking and production in designated areas in the United States by facilitating cooperation among all levels of drug enforcement, and enhancing the intelligence sharing among these agencies. I have helped create task forces throughout the state of Nevada, and I also secured the funding for the creation of the Nevada HIDTA in 2001.
“In recent years, I have helped secure over $1 million for law enforcement programs that attack the meth problem at the source. Metro’s Special Police Enforcement and Eradication of Drug Labs program, North Las Vegas police anti-meth efforts and the Grass Valley Methamphetamine project have all received federal funding. This funding is a step in the right direction for Nevada and I will fight to ensure that these programs continue to receive funding to stop illegal drug trafficking in Nevada and throughout the country.
“I will continue to fight so that law enforcement efforts can continue to shut down methamphetamine labs and prevent trafficking and dealing, but it is equally important to focus on prevention and treatment programs. The true war on drugs takes more than dedicated law enforcement; it takes parents and teachers and counselors working to teach kids that drugs like methamphetamine are killers.
“We also have to reach those who are already addicted to methamphetamines. This includes those in the prison system. If we don’t treat people who are in jail for crimes associated with their addiction, then when they get out they are more likely to commit those same crimes again. Drug counseling and support prevents recidivism of drug related crimes.
“Addiction is not merely a matter of will. It is a medical problem that has all the properties of a disease. For that reason, we have to treat it the same way we treat the spread of a horrible disease–through both prevention and treatment. To do this well, we need to understand how people become addicted, what research tells us about methamphetamines affect on the brain, what someone goes through when coming off the drug and how to integrate former addicts into society.
“Methamphetamine is a threat to the health and safety of our families and communities. I am committed to learning how we may best direct resources to address this problem–in Nevada and across the nation.”