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Meth still a deadly menace

On the surface, it sounds like good news. Utah has fewer meth labs than it did a few years ago, which means fewer people are at risk of exposure to the many after effects of methamphetamine production. But the insidious drug is as prevalent as ever because imported methamphetamine — mostly from Mexico — has filled the void.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Mexican criminal organizations are able to produce more than 10 pounds of high-purity, low-cost methamphetamine in a 24-hour period. It is primarily sold in the West and Midwest. Law enforcers say the Mexican drug pipelines have become more lucrative as the states and the federal government have cracked down on the sale of meth-making materials.

Legislators and locally elected officials who oversee funding for drug interdiction, prevention and treatment programs must carefully examine these trends. Although less methamphetamine is being produced locally, it is still being sold and used locally. Law enforcement, prevention and treatment efforts are just as important as ever given the highly addictive nature of this drug.

Methamphetamine is a relatively inexpensive drug. Users become so addicted that they sacrifice their health, the well-being of their children, their relationships and their jobs because their next high becomes the overwhelming motivation in life. A growing number of women have become ensnared in meth addiction, which has resulted in sharp increases in the female prison population.

The impacts of methamphetamine use tend to affect many factions of the community, whether it's emergency service officials who are dispatched to bust and clean up meth houses; heavier burdens on human services programs, the courts and the prison system; or the breakup of families.

The fact that there are fewer drug labs in Utah is a good thing. It means there are fewer toxic homes in our neighborhoods. Fewer children are being exposed to deadly chemicals and fumes. It means interdiction efforts, stricter regulation of drug-making materials and enforcement measures are having an impact. But it does not suggest that Utah has conquered its methamphetamine problem. Not by a long shot.

Policymakers must take the time to carefully examine these trends because a reduced number of meth labs doesn't necessarily mean that fewer people are using meth. It means they found suppliers who are not subject to the long arm of U.S. law.