Sunday, April 10, 2005

States Grapple With Growing Teen Methamphetamine Use

Martha Irvine, AP National Writer (specializing in coverage of people in their 20s and younger. She can be reached at mirvine(at) has this story on methamphetamine and teens:

LAKE ELMO, Minn. (AP) -- They sit at a cafeteria table, gossiping and snacking during a school field trip. "Have you seen him? Has he gained the weight back?" one girl asks. "Yeah, he looked so good," replies another from across the table. "His cheeks filled in." It's no casual lunchtime conversation. The teen they're talking about is a recovering methamphetamine addict - and so are several of the teens at the table, all of them students who attend alternative high schools in the St. Paul area and who are trying to get their lives back on track.

While the methamphetamine epidemic has often been associated with drug labs hidden away in the countryside, today's users frequently defy that image, whether they are urban professionals or suburban homemakers.

Minnesota has been dealing with all of the above and is home to another scary trend: Here, many young people and experts who monitor drug use agree that meth is steadily replacing marijuana as the teenage drug of choice.

"Meth is THE thing - it's what everybody wants to do," says Anthony, a 17-year-old student at Sobriety High School in St. Paul who first tried meth at age 13 and has been in recovery since he overdosed last summer. He and other students from alternative learning programs were allowed to speak on the condition that their last names not be used.

While statistics show that meth use among teens and middle-school students has been level for the past few years, experts caution that those numbers can be deceiving, since meth seems to spread in pockets, leaving some regions or populations relatively untouched while others are devastated.

"Meth is an oddball in that way," says Caleb Banta-Green, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington's Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute. "You never know where it's going to hit."

But when it does, it often hits hard - with few states evading meth's reach in one population or another, including young people.

In Nebraska, for instance, two 20-year-olds who were high on meth froze to death after getting lost in a snowstorm in January. And in Oregon, officials recently reported that meth is now second only to marijuana - surpassing alcohol - as the drug that sends the most teens to treatment in that state.

Nebraska and Oregon are among the nearly two dozen states that have entrenched meth problems, most of them in the West and Midwest, according to state-by-state advisories the Drug Enforcement Administration released this year. And the DEA says meth is a growing concern in sections of nearly every other state.

Read the remaining story here.

No comments:

Post a Comment