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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Health Officials Warn of Meth Epidemic in Montana

September 18, 2001
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," Wise said.

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.