Associated Press (09.14.01) - Tuesday, September 18, 2001
Methamphetamine use has risen to epidemic proportions in
Montana, according to Dr. Michael Spence, chief medical
officer for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human
Services. "This is a problem that affects everyone, and it's
increasing rapidly," he said. Roland Mena, chief of the
department's Chemical Dependency Bureau, said that users are
increasingly injecting the drug, sharing needles, and
contracting hepatitis. "When you look at the lab cleanup, the
law enforcement activity, and the child protective issues,
this is a very serious problem," Mena said.
Four years ago, the state crime lab processed evidence from
seven meth labs; now it has about 100 cases involving meth
operations, said Attorney General Mike McGrath. Spence and
McGrath were among speakers last Thursday at a meth conference
in Billings sponsored by the federal Center for Substance
Abuse Treatment. In the Flathead Valley alone, 39 meth labs
were raided by authorities during the past year, said Dr.
Richard Wise of Pathways Treatment Center in Kalispell.
Last year, 620 women and 920 men were admitted to state
facilities for meth addiction treatment, Mena said. "The trend
is that after a meth epidemic, you see an increase in heroin
and opiate use, and we're beginning to see that happen in our
treatment program," Mena said. Spence said that less than 10
percent of cocaine addicts remain drug-free for a year, and he
doubts meth treatment is any more effective. "Long-time meth
use can lead to psychosis that mimics paranoid schizophrenia,"
On Friday, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said a spending bill that
has moved closer to President Bush's desk contains $4 million
to fight meth in Montana.