- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Neither cocaine, marijuana nor heroin represents the greatest drug problem in U.S. counties — methamphetamine, or meth, is more menacing than all three combined, the National Association of Counties (NACo) reports.

In its most recent survey detailing the effects of meth abuse on counties, NACo results indicate once again that meth is the most powerful drug problem in U.S. communities.

At a press conference yesterday at the National Press Club, NACo released its fifth survey in the past two years on the problem of methamphetamine abuse. The latest survey focused on the criminal effects of meth and the significance of anti-meth legislation.

“The results from this year are similar to last year’s survey: Meth is still the No. 1 problem in our counties,” said Bill Hansell, commissioner of NACo. “We need a comprehensive strategy that will deal with all the aspects of meth abuse. It is ruining lives, families and the environment.”

Larry Naake, executive director of NACo, said nearly 50 percent of counties that were surveyed reported that one in five inmates in their jails are incarcerated because of meth abuse. Another 20 percent reported that the number is closer to one in two.

Sheriff-Coroner J. Patrick Hedges of San Luis Obispo County, Calif., noted the drug’s costs to society.

“Meth has unintentional victims. My squad found a van once that had a meth lab in the back. The car seat inside that held an 11-month child tested positive for meth,” Sheriff Hedges said. “Chemicals used to make meth are dumped over bridges and thrown onto streets.”

The survey shows that restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in the production of meth — and other legislative moves have helped reduce the number of meth labs.

Pseudoephedrine often is found in decongestants such as Sudafed or Claritin-D. Many states have required that these common products be kept behind the counter in stores and pharmacies.

Federal law limits the sale of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine to no more than three packages per day to any one person.

However, NACo said the regulatory moves have contributed to the rise of meth importation from the international market, particularly Mexico. As a result, costs associated with meth manufacture and distribution have risen, likely fueling an increase in criminal activities.

Despite these consequences, Mr. Hansell said, “By restricting pseudoephedrine, you can help in shutting down the labs in counties. This reduces the amount of children that are unintentionally exposed to meth and also reduces the environmental costs.”

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