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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The National Institute of Justice has ranked Salt Lake City with the third highest rate of women who were high on methamphetamine when they were arrested last year, another sign of the highly addictive drug's growing hold on Utah.
The increase also has officials worried about what meth is doing not only to the women, but also their families and children, who often wind up in state custody, the Deseret Morning News reported Sunday in a copyright story.
In 2003, 45.6 percent of women arrested in Salt Lake City tested positive for meth, up from 38 percent last year, according to a research program funded by the National Institute of Justice. That ranks Salt Lake only behind Honolulu (54.4 percent) and San Diego (47.1 percent).
"Meth is an epidemic in this state, but some people are still refusing to acknowledge that there is any kind of a real problem," said Lana Turner, deputy district attorney for Salt Lake County and member of the Salt Lake Meth Initiative. "These are the kinds of things that are going on in this community."
Utah officials close to the children of women who use say their children suffer from stunning amounts of neglect, abuse, neurologic damage and death because of their mothers' habits.
"It's so big. What do you do with it? It's like trying to stop a flood. What do you do?" said Rod Layton, a longtime Ogden-area law enforcement officer who is now director of the Children's Justice Center in Ogden.
Women of all races, backgrounds and economic circumstances told the newspaper they have tried meth, and quickly became addicted to the habit which could cost between $100 to $300 a day. The women said they lost their jobs, ignored their children and then resorted to stealing, prostitution or other criminal and uncharacteristic behavior to keep using the drug.
Most have been reported to the state Division of Child and Family Services, and many lost custody of their children.
DCFS recorded 11,000 substantiated reports of child abuse in 2003, up from 9,800 in 2002 and 9,500 in 2001. In custody cases, drug and alcohol abuse by parents is the top reason for removing children younger than 11 from their homes. Most of these cases are meth-related, officials say.
"I was so powerless against methamphetamine. I gave up my children," said Cathy Anderson, 41, whose two daughters were placed in state custody.
She is now incarcerated in the Utah State Prison on drug-related convictions. "I walked away from my life, my husband, my children, everything. I gave up," she said. "I left my apartment and everything in it and became a meth addict."
"Methamphetamine will take a woman down faster than anything else," said Katy Hilton, client services manager at the Volunteers of America Women's Detox Center, Murray.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)