- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The recent resurgence of methamphetamine in South Dakota is at least partly caused by a reduction in programs teaching students about the dangers of the drug, according to experts.

Meth-related arrests have more than tripled since funding for youth education programs like “Meth Makes You Ugly” was eliminated amid 2011 state budget cuts, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1eN8giE ) reported. In 2014, meth-related arrests reached 1,517, compared to 402 meth-related arrests in 2011.

Although they also acknowledge other factors, including the emergence of the “one-pot” method to make smaller matches of meth, drug counselors and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley believe education cut backs are contributing to the rise.

The funding that remains for youth education programs after the cut backs is split among campaigns for a growing list of illegal drugs, including new synthetic varieties, Jackley said.

“The more education you put in, the less treatment and enforcement you need; the more treatment you have, the less enforcement is needed,” he said. “The enforcement side is very dependent on education and treatment.”

Carol Reiger, executive director of Keystone Treatment Center in Canton, also believes there is a correlation between the education cuts and an increase in the amount of people being admitted to the facility.

“Now there are new teenagers coming up and they think ‘It won’t hurt me’,” Regier said. “They don’t have that information about the risk.”

A majority of the state’s meth arrests and seizures have happened in Minnehaha and Pennington counties. About 75 percent of the meth-related arrests in the state so far this year have happened in the two counties, where law enforcement officials are dealing with historically larger amounts of meth, according to Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom.

He thinks fewer drug prevention programs play a role, as well as the state’s shifting attention to prescription and synthetic drug abuse, which could be causing people to seek meth as an easier alternative.

“I’m a proponent of education, treatment, along with enforcement,” Thom said. “Anytime there is a lack of awareness I think people have tendency to relapse into some of that behavior.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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