Methamphetamine: Epidemic? What Epidemic? Study Asks 6/16/06

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The extent of methamphetamine use in the United States is overplayed and exaggerated by the news media and politicians, The Sentencing Project said in a study. Overheated rhetoric, horror stories, and factually incorrect assertions about meth use lead policymakers to make poor decisions about how to allocate precious resources for dealing with drug use and abuse, said study author Ryan King.

The Sentencing Project is a nonprofit research organization that calls for reductions in the use of incarceration. The report, "The Next Big Thing? Methamphetamine in the United States," was released Wednesday.

Relying on the common national indicators of drug use, such as the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program to argue that meth use levels are lower than the news media would have us believe, King wrote: "The portrayal of methamphetamine in the United States as an epidemic spreading across the country has been grossly overstated."

Citing government figures that estimate about 583,000 people used meth in the past month, King noted that four times as many people used cocaine and 30 times as many used marijuana. The report acknowledged that meth is more widely used today than a decade ago, but argued that use levels are fairly flat and that reported use has been declining among teens for the past five years.

The report also acknowledged that meth is a regional problem, with arrestees in large Western cities show high rates (between 25% and 38%) of meth use. But overall, King noted, only 5% of men arrested nationwide had meth in their systems. By comparison, 30% had cocaine in their systems and 44% had marijuana.

"Mischaracterizing the impact of methamphetamine by exaggerating its prevalence and consequences while downplaying its receptivity to treatment succeeds neither as a tool of prevention nor a vehicle of education," King wrote.

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Issue #440 -- 6/16/06

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Editorial: Real World Consequences | Feature: Death Toll Climbs as Fentanyl-Laced Heroin ODs Spread | Feature: Among Whites, Imprisoning Drug Users a Minority Opinion, Survey Finds | Feature: Industrial Hemp Push Underway in California, North Dakota | Offer and Appeal: Important New Legalization Video and Drug War Facts Book Available | Book Offer: Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke | Alert: Important Medical Marijuana Vote Coming Up in Congress -- Your Help Needed | Follow-up: Colombia Amendment Results | Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle? | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Upholds Searches Without Notice | Methamphetamine: Epidemic? What Epidemic? Study Asks | Law Enforcement: Justice for Sale in Washington Border County | Europe: New Italian Government to Move to "Reduce Damage" of Tough Drug Law | Europe: Britain to Reclassify Methamphetamine as Class A Drug | Canada: Federal Medical Marijuana Program a Flop, AIDS Society Says | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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