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More on the Meth Conference

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
The 2nd National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV and Hepatitis wrapped up Saturday in Salt Lake. It was an amazing array of panels, plenaries, and presentations on dozens of topics related to methamphetamine policy, treatment, prevention, and education, and it's given me several story ideas: In a panel on the good, the bad, and the ugly in meth policy, Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women gave a powerful presentation on efforts to criminalize drug using pregnant women despite the lack of evidence that neonatal drug exposures result in damage to the fetus (or more damage than can result from non-criminalized exposures). In Arkansas last year, the legislature passed a law making a positive drug test in a newborn evidence of presumptive child abuse. Now, a report on how the law has worked has just been issued. Look for a story on this issue this week, as well as a heads up for activists in other states where similar measures are pending. I'll also be looking into stimulant substitution therapy. Although it was a disappointment that Dr. John Grabowski of the University of Texas at Houston, the leading American researcher on the topic, couldn't make it, there was a good panel discussion on the topic led by Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance. It's also timely, given that Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan is seeking to embark on a massive, 700-person pilot program there. Look for an article on this soon, too. I also had a nice chat with Boston-based anthropologist Patricia Case, who gave a fascinating presentation on the history of amphetamines. When she heard that I live in an area with lots of meat-packers, she got very excited about doing some research on meth use in the industry. She and I will work on getting that done. She's interested in the anthropology of it; I'm interested in seeing if there is evidence of "normal" meth use, or meth users who are not totally deranged. It seems as if everyone assumes every who uses the drug is an insane tweaker, but I wonder about that. This will be a more long-term project, though.

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