Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Fighting meth remains top priority


Terry Goddard

Over the past several months, the people of Arizona have faced a drumbeat of bad news from state government.

The declining economy has created a large budget deficit, and cuts have been made across state government to many vital programs and services, including law enforcement.

Given our economic challenges, preventing crime becomes especially important. By keeping our communities safe, we also can save public dollars.

One area where we can make a big cost-saving difference is drug prevention, particularly preventing methamphetamine use.

Methamphetamine use costs the U.S. nearly $24 billion a year, says a recent study by the RAND Corp. More than $4 billion of that amount accrues to law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system.

These costs are especially high in our state.

In 2007, 36 percent of arrestees entering Maricopa County jails tested positive for meth, and 3 out of 4 violent and property crimes were linked to meth, says the Arizona Arrestee Reporting Information Network.

Perhaps most troubling are the devastating effects meth has on the lives of children and young people.

Sixty-five percent of child abuse and neglect cases in Arizona are tied to meth. Moreover, the young people whose lives are nearly destroyed by their own meth use begin early – at just age 14, on average, says the 2008 Arizona Youth Survey.

As attorney general, I have made fighting meth a top priority. For many years, I have worked to pass a statewide statute restricting sales of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in meth production, and I collaborated with local officials to pass pseudoephedrine ordinances in 43 Arizona cities and towns.

These efforts, together with a federal pseudoephedrine law, have helped curb the availability of meth. But given the drug’s highly addictive nature, to stamp out this scourge we need to curb first-time use.

For this reason, prevention is one of the most valuable tools we have for stopping meth use and stemming the high costs to our state and neighborhoods.

The Arizona Meth Project is at the forefront of this state’s effort to combat the drug. A large-scale prevention campaign, the Arizona Meth Project was launched in 2007 with public and private support.

The project focuses on reducing first-time meth use among teens ages 12 to 17 and uses graphic advertising to show young people the shocking consequences of meth use and addiction.

We have already seen signs of progress here. Thanks to the campaign, people across Arizona are thinking differently about methamphetamine.

The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission reports that since the launch of the Arizona Meth Project, use of the drug among youth has significantly declined, falling by more than half in many categories.

While we have made great progress in fighting meth in Arizona, use among our state’s youth remains far too high. That’s why I recently co-chaired an Arizona Meth Project round table to discuss how far we have come and what needs to be done to further combat this vicious drug.

We engaged with groups from a variety of perspectives – from state and local law enforcement to PTA members to health care workers.

All Arizonans must work together if we are to end the destructive effects of meth in our state.

You can find more information about meth and the Arizona Meth Project at my Web site, www.azag.gov.

Terry Goddard is attorney general of Arizona.

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