Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Are Committed to Combating Methamphetamine Abuse Across the Nation

As far too many American families know, methamphetamine is a highly addictive, debilitating, and deadly drug that has ruined the lives of millions of Americans this year alone.  Beyond negatively impacting users and their families, meth abuse and production pose significant threats to communities and the environment.  Democrats in the 110th Congress have renewed our longstanding commitment to employing innovative and comprehensive strategies to curtail and end methamphetamine abuse, especially in rural and tribal communities where it is most prevalent. 

Methamphetamine abusers suffer extreme, long-lasting physical and mental side affects.  Methamphetamine, also known as “crank” or “speed,” is an easily manufactured, powerful stimulant that impacts the central nervous system and produces an acute “rush” for users.  This rush is short-lived, however, and is followed by a period of heightened agitation that often produces violent outbursts, convulsions, and, in some cases, heart attacks.  Over the long-term, abusers lose control of their minds and bodies, experiencing paranoia, hallucinations (including a delusion that parasites or insects are crawling under the skin), compulsive behavior (including risky sexual behavior), prolonged inability to sleep (for sometimes weeks at a time), severe tooth decay (also known as “meth mouth”), and strokes.  (See Generally, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Drug Guide, Methamphetamine (Meth), last visited 11/06/07.)

If a picture is worth a thousand words then the following series of mug shots best illustrates the tragedy of meth abuse as it chronicles the decline of one meth user from 1980 to 1988.     

Provided to Senator Byron Dorgan by a senior official at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The road from casual to chronic abuse is a short one for most meth users.  Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug.  Forty to 60 percent of users become hooked after only the first few doses.  In 2005, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that more than 10.4 million people ages 12 or older (4.3 percent of the population) reported using meth in their lifetime and more than 1.3 million reported using meth in the past year.  Nearly 257,000 Americans reported dependant use of meth in the past month (as of the day the survey was taken in 2005); this is a 25 percent increase from 2002, when the meth usage over a life-time was at its reported highest.  (National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drug Abuse Warning Network, Research Report Series – Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction, last visited on 11/6/07; SAMHSA, National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health, 2002-2005.)

Recovery from meth addiction may be more difficult than recovery from other drug addictions.  Unlike drugs derived from natural plant material, methamphetamine is manufactured from synthetically produced chemicals, many of which are toxic.  As a result, meth users experience permanent damage to their brain, lungs, and other internal organs, causing severe psychological and medical disorders and making full recovery extremely difficult.  The relapse rate for meth users who have undergone treatment is high at 70 to 80 percent.  After surveying 200 hospitals, the National Association of Counties (NAC) reported that more than half of the hospitals believed the success rate for meth treatment varied from other drug treatment programs and nearly half reported that treatment took longer for meth addicts.  (D. Hunt, S. Kuck, and L. Truitt, “Methamphetamine Use: Lessons Learned, January 31, 2006, prepared for Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs; NAC, “Meth Epidemic in America: Two New Surveys of U.S. Counties,” January 2006.)

Illicit methamphetamine use has increased since the early 1990s.  While the nation has been dealing with legal and illegal methamphetamine use since the 1930′s, incidents of meth abuse began to rise significantly in the 1990s.  SAMHSA’s surveys show that reports of meth usage over a lifetime more than doubled, from 2 to nearly 5 percent, between 1994 and 2004.  By 2006, approximately 731,000 Americans (0.3 percent of the population) aged 12 or older reported that they were using meth currently.  (SAMHSA, National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health, 2006; CRS Report, “Methamphetamine: Background, Prevalence, and Federal Drug Control Policies,” RL33857, 01/24/07.) 

While ranking lower than marijuana or cocaine use, meth use is equal or nearly equal to the use of ecstasy and crack, respectively, and is abused more frequently than heroin or OxyContin.  Indeed, increased meth abuse is “arguably the most important change in drug consumption patterns since the crack cocaine epidemic of the late 1980s and early 1990s.”  The NAC identified meth abuse as the number one illegal drug problem in 47 percent of counties across the United States.  Moreover, the National Institute of Health found that the number of meth-related emergency room cases increased by more than 50 percent from 1995 to 2002.  (CRS Report, “Methamphetamine: Background, Prevalence, and Federal Drug Control Policies,” RL33857, 01/24/07; Hearing Opening Statement of Senator Max Baucus, “Breaking the Methamphetamine Supply Chain,” Senate Committee on Finance, 9/18/07; NAC, “The Meth Epidemic: The Changing Demographics of Methamphetamine,” August 2007; National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drug Abuse Warning Network, Research Report Series – Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction, last visited on 11/6/07.)

While western states and rural areas experience the highest rates of meth abuse, the problem is spreading east.  Combined data from the same survey 2002 to 2005 reveal that of all teens and adults, 1.2 percent used meth in West as compared with 0.5 percent in the Midwest, 0.5 percent in the South, and 0.1 percent in the Northeast.  Moreover, persons living in non-metropolitan areas showed a greater likelihood of meth abuse than persons living in large or small metropolises.  Approximately, 0.8 percent of the teen and adult population used meth in these rural areas compared to 0.5 percent in large cities and 0.7 in smaller cities.  Further illustrating this point, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming showed the highest rates of meth abuse, whereas New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut showed the lowest rates.  (SAMHSA, National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health, 2002-2005.)

Nonetheless, more recent studies show that the problem is spreading beyond the western states and rural communities.  A SAMHSA study of 2006 trends found that while the West still experiences the highest usage at 1.6 percent, the South increased to 0.7 percent, the Midwest remained the same at 0.5 percent, and the Northeast showed an increase to 0.3 percent.  NIH now reports that meth is considered the fast growing problem in the Atlanta metro area. (SAMHSA, National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health, 2006; National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drug Abuse Warning Network, Research Report Series – Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction, last visited on 11/6/07; DOJ, National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2007, October 2006.)

Native Americans experience the highest meth usage rate of any racial or ethnic group.  SAMHSA surveys show that 1.7 percent of American Indians/Alaskan Natives and 2.2 percent of Native Hawaiians abuse methamphetamine.  In comparison to the rates for other ethnicities — whites (0.7 percent), Hispanics (0.5 percent), Asians (0.2 percent), and African Americans (0.1 percent) — these numbers are staggering.  One Arizona tribe reported that nearly 30 percent of their tribal employees recently tested positive for meth use. (The National Congress of American Indians, “Methamphetamine in Indian Country:  An American Problem Uniquely Affecting Indian Country,” Summer 2007.)

 

Communities, especially those with fewer resources, have been overwhelmed by the meth problem.  In 2004, meth treatment admissions at hospitals rose to 8 percent of all admissions.  Because many meth abusers do not have health insurance, hospitals have had to bear the brunt of costs associated with their treatment.  On average, the complexities and length of meth treatment are more costly than other treatments.  The NAC survey of hospitals revealed that 56 percent of the hospitals reported increased costs due to methamphetamine abuse.  This problem is more acute in smaller communities, such as tribal communities, which are already under-funded by more than 40 percent of the funding needed to provide basic health care services.  (National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drug Abuse Warning Network, Research Report Series – Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction, last visited on 11/6/07.; The National Congress of American Indians, “Methamphetamine in Indian Country: An American Problem Uniquely Affecting Indian Country,” Summer 2007.)

Local enforcement agencies are similarly under-funded and understaffed to deal with the growing meth problem.  While some studies show that meth abuse has declined since 2002 (though still up from 1990s), 55 percent of sheriffs departments are reporting increases in meth-related robberies and burglaries during the last year.  These increases have come at a time when federal funding for state and local law enforcement programs, much of which is used by departments to combat meth, are seeing drastic decreases due to years of Bush and Republican budget cuts. 

In rural areas, where law enforcement resources for anti-meth abuse programs are at their lowest, meth labs have been able to flourish. The FBI reports that more than 40 percent of violent crime in Indian Country can be traced back to meth abuse or production.  Moreover, when you consider the regions in the country experiencing the highest meth use rates, it is unsurprising that the FBI’S.2006 Uniform Crime Report showed that the West had the greatest increase in violent crime (3 percent) between 2005 and 2006, followed by the South (2.3 percent) and the Midwest (1.8 percent). (Hearing Opening Statement of Senator Max Baucus, “Methamphetamine Smugglers,” Senate Committee on Finance, 9/18/07; NAC, “Methamphetamine: Local Law Enforcements Role;” The National congress of American Indians, “Methamphetamine in Indian Country: An American Problem Uniquely Affecting Indian Country,” Summer 2007; FBI, Crime in the United States, 2006, Table 1 — Volume and Rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 1987-2006.)

Other societal losses include correctional costs, workers’ compensation costs, employee productivity costs, and costs to social welfare agencies, especially child and family services. (The Meth Project, The EffectsThe Community, last visited 11/07/07.)

Children suffer as a result of methamphetamine abuse.  Each year, thousands of children are abandoned by parents who are meth users and are too physically or mentally ill to handle the responsibilities of parenthood.  These parents also have shorter life expectancies due to their activities.  Again, communities with fewer resources show the greatest impact.  The National Indian Child Welfare Association estimates that 80 to 85 percent of Indian families in the child welfare system have drug or alcohol abuse problems.  Forty-eight percent of tribal law enforcement respondents to a Bureau of Indian Affairs survey claimed that child neglect and abuse has increased due to meth use.  (Partnership for a Drug Free American, Meth360 Information Kit, last reviewed 11/07/07; The National congress of American Indians, “Methamphetamine in Indian Country: An American Problem Uniquely Affecting Indian Country,” Summer 2007.)

In addition to the standard medical and psychological problems associated with neglect, children of meth “cooks” are often injured themselves by the toxins released in the production process or meth lab explosions. (Partnership for a Drug Free America, Meth360 Information Kit, last reviewed 11/07/07.)

The dangers associated with methamphetamine production.  Meth is produced synthetically from precursor chemicals that become toxic when heated.  According the DEA, 80 percent of illegal methamphetamines are produced in and smuggled from “super laboratories” located in Mexico, which get their precursor chemicals wholesale on the international market.   The remaining 20 percent of meth production takes place in small laboratories located in the United States.  These “mom-and-pop” labs are set-up in kitchens, motel rooms, and other clandestine spots, and they usually use precursor chemicals that are found in over-the-counter medicine.  The process for cooking meth in these amateur labs is so volatile that production often results in fires and explosions, which put entire neighborhoods at risk.  (CRS Report, “Methamphetamine: Background, Prevalence, and Federal Drug Control Policies,” RL33857, 01/24/07.)

Meth labs also pose threats to the environment.  According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, for every pound of meth that is produced, five to six pounds of hazardous, toxic waste is generated.  Meth cooks often dump that waste — the evidence of their crime — into local waterways.  Moreover, these labs are not easily cleaned, poisonous vapors and residue from the cooking process settle into insulation, ceilings, and carpets and require costly, specialized Hazmat scrubs to repair the site.  (CRS Report, “Methamphetamine: Background, Prevalence, and Federal Drug Control Policies,” RL33857, 01/24/07; Partnership for a Drug Free American, Meth360 Information Kit, last reviewed 11/07/07.)

Bipartisan legislation addresses the meth epidemic.  Last year, the bipartisan Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 was passed, as part of the Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill (P.L. 109-177), to reduce domestic meth production by limiting the distribution of meth precursor chemicals sold over the counter.  The bill provided additional funding to the “Meth Hot Spots” program under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which issues grants to state and local law enforcement to undertake anti-meth initiatives.  The legislation also funded programs to aid in the prosecution of meth manufacturers, assist children impacted by meth-abuse, and enhance the regulation of environmental byproducts from meth production. 

The result has been a dramatic decrease in domestic meth labs.  A study cited by the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported a 63 percent decrease in reported meth lab seizures nationwide between 2005 and 2006.  This was on top of the 42 percent decrease that already occurred between 2004 to 2005 due to similar state initiatives that had passed in 44 states.  (DOJ, National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2007, October 2006.)

This year, the 2007 Revised Continuing Resolution Appropriations Bill, included $519 million for the Byrne/JAG program, which is an increase of 108.7 million over Fiscal Year 2006 levels.  States and localities engaging in anti-meth activities rely on Byrne/JAG grants to hire personnel and fund their activities.  This increase represented only the first of many efforts in the 110th Congress to increase federal funding for state and local law enforcement programs, which has been decimated by years of President Bush and Congressional Republican cuts. (NAC, “Methamphetamine: Local Law Enforcements Role.”)

Despite the success of current programs, more work is left to be done.  The reduction of domestic meth labs has only increased the demand for Mexican-produced meth. While funding for border control aimed at stopping drug smugglers has increased over the years, more funding and smarter strategies are needed to further secure our borders and reduce demand for meth. (DOJ, National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2007, October 2006.)

Senate Democrats are committed to comprehensively combating illicit methamphetamine abuse and production.  The Senate-passed Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, Fiscal Year 2008 would provide additional funds for meth-related law enforcement programs, which were left under-funded by previous, Republican-controlled Congresses.  If President Bush does not veto the 2008 CJS bill, which he has threatened to do because of increases to state and local law enforcement programs, the bill would provide:

  • more than $2 billion for the DEA, which includes funding to address meth usage;

  • approximately $660 million for the COPS program, which includes funding for the meth hot spots program and tribal law enforcement;
  • nearly $30 million for the Indian Tribe Assistance program; and
  • approximately $660 million for the Byrne/JAG program, which more than 80 percent of counties surveyed in a NAC report said is vital to the continuation of their anti-meth programs. (NAC, “Methamphetamine: Local Law Enforcements Role.”)

Further, numerous measures have been offered in the 110th Congress by Senate Democrats to combat methamphetamine abuse and its consequences, including:

·        S.Res.366, designating November 2007 as “national Meth Awareness Month,” to increase awareness of methamphetamine abuse; 

·        S.1211, the Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act of 2007, which would impose increased prison terms on those who market illegal drugs to appeal to children;

·        S.2071, the Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2007, which would enhance regulation requirements for sellers and persons dealing in certain listed chemicals used to produce meth;

·        S.2237, the Crime Control and Prevention Act of 2007, which includes the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2007 to improve methods of tracking the purchase of legal chemicals used to produce meth;

  • S.884, the Family-Based Meth Treatment Access Act of 2007, which would improve meth addiction treatment services for pregnant women and parents;

  • S.1367, the Treatment and Prevention of Methamphetamine Abuse Act , which would, in addition to enhancing meth addiction treatment services, improve post-treatment resources for recovering addicts, support efforts to aid the children of addicts, and promote meth abuse prevention programs;

·        S.1906, the Meth Mouth Prevention and Community Recovery Act, which would promote awareness in the general public and the medical community about the impact of meth abuse on dental health and treatment;

·        S.267, the Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act of 2007, which would clarify that territories and Indian tribes are eligible to receive grants for confronting the use of methamphetamine. 

·        S.635, the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2007, which would establish guidelines for decontaminating former meth lab areas; and

·        S.2100, the Federal Emergency Meth Lab Cleanup Funding Act of 2007, which would authorize funding for state, local, and tribal agencies and others to clean up former meth lab areas. 

As these and other measures proceed through the legislative process, the nation can be assured that Democrats will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to aggressively address and end methamphetamine abuse. 

Bookmark and Share