First Ever Meth Conference Held In Salt Lake City

First Ever Meth Conference Held In Salt Lake City

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Jed Boal ReportingFor years Utah has struggled to cope with the heavy toll of methamphetamine in our communities. Now, experts call it the number one illegal drug problem in the nation. A conference in Salt Lake is trying to targeting the problem.

The idea behind the first-ever national conference on Methamphetamine is to gather prevention, treatment and law enforcement together to form alliances. Meth is the first drug epidemic that started in rural areas and spread to the city. It's everybody's problem now.

First Ever Meth Conference Held In Salt Lake City

The scourge of meth will not leave our streets, in fact it's spreading across the country. Salt Lake County alone estimates 40-thousand adults need meth treatment, and there are likely twice that number of users.

Pat Fleming, Salt Lake County Division of Substance Abuse: "This is the biggest problem we're facing in the United States of America."

And there's new evidence presented at the conference that meth causes brain damage, in addition to other severe health problems.

Pat Fleming, Salt Lake County Division of Substance Abuse: "We haven't seen this before with other drugs. This is poison to the brain, pure and simple."

Luciano Colonna heads up the Harm Reduction Project, which organized the conference. He says prevention and education are the keys to the problem and communities need more public money for treatment.

Luciano Colonna, Harm Reduction Project: "Our governments tend to focus on the supply side, but we really need to decrease the demand for methamphetamine."

Users who want treatment today would have to wait on a list, and treatment can take more than a year.

Luciano Colonna, Harm Reduction Project: "We can treat it, but we just don't have the money to treat it."

Meth today is more potent and more users are injecting the drug rather than snorting it.

Luciano Colonna, Harm Reduction Project: "We fear that we're going to see increases in HIV and hepatitis C and other injection related health risks in rural communities, and they won't be ready for it."

The Bush administration yesterday announced new efforts to battle meth abuse, including more training for law enforcement and grant money for treatment of addicts.

Tina Duncan, Salt Lake County Division of Substance Abuse: "There's no picture of the meth user, or any drug user, it's in all populations."

The most important message they want to get across is DON'T USE METH! It destroys thousands of lives in our communities. Next month, the state will have new survey numbers of meth use among adults and among children.

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