lab seizures decline
By SAM HANANEL
Associated Press Writer
seizures of illegal meth labs
dropped more than 30 percent
last year, the Bush administration
said today, as more states
and drugstore chains began limiting
access to ingredients used
to make the highly addictive drug.
In Montana, busts of meth
labs fell by 66 percent, the second-
highest percentage decrease in the country.
Also today, the nation’s
largest drug testing company
said the number of job applicants
and workers who test positive for
meth plunged 31 percent over the
first five months of this year.
White House drug czar John
Walters said the two reports are
evidence that the “one-two
punch” to restrict chemicals and
educate the public about the horrors
of meth addiction are finally paying off.
“What this information shows
is, on supply and demand, we are
making a dramatic difference,”
said Walters, head of the Office
of National Drug Control Policy.
But some federal lawmakers
give most of the credit to state
and local governments, saying
the decline in meth abuse has
come despite the absence of
Rep. Mark Souder, chairman
of the House drug policy subcommittee,
said the administration
has refused to make combatting
meth a priority. He criticized a
White House budget proposal to
slash federal spending for state
and local law enforcement to fight meth.
“Efforts to continue to downplay
the threat, after working to
cut funding for anti-meth efforts,
are only making those who fight
the meth epidemic daily more
angry at this administration,”
said Souder, R-Ind.
Meth lab seizures declined
from 17,562 in 2004 to 12,185 last
year, according to the Drug
Enforcement Administration’s El
Paso Intelligence Center, which
compiles information on clandestine
laboratories seized within
the United States.
The drop was steepest in the
Western and central western
regions of the country, particularly
states that were among the
first and hardest hit by meth
abuse and the dangerous
makeshift labs where the drug is
made from pseudoephedrine
found in many store-bought cold
medicines and household chemicals.
Oklahoma, for example, saw
a drop of 68 percent, Montana
fell by 66 percent and Oregon
declined 60 percent. Missouri,
which leads the nation in lab
seizures, saw a 22 percent decline.
Those states are among at
least 37 states with laws that
restrict the sale of cold medications
in an effort to starve meth
manufacturers of their key ingredient.
The federal Combat Meth
Act, signed into law in March,
will enforce similar restrictions
across the country by Sept. 30.
In the drug test findings,
Quest Diagnostics Inc. said its
data showed workplace meth use
fell 31 percent since 2005 and 45
percent since a peak in 2004. The
Teterboro, N.J.-based company
analyzed more than 7.5 million
drug tests in 2005 and about 3
million tests from January to May 2005.
While less than 1 percent of
the nation’s population uses
meth, more than half of the
nation’s counties report that
meth is their largest drug problem.
Earlier this month, the White
House drug policy office set a
goal to cut meth use by 15 percent
by 2009 and increase
seizures of meth labs by 25 percent.
A priority is stemming the
flow of meth from superlabs in
Mexico, which supply about 80
percent of the drug to the United States.
At a congressional hearing
last week, Democratic and
Republican lawmakers called the
plan weak and said they remain
frustrated that the Bush administration
downplays the problem of meth.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, DMd.,
said it appeared the administration
had not spent enough
time consulting with local officials
before releasing the antimeth strategy.
In an interview, Walters dismissed the criticism.
“No one’s trying to downplay
it,” Walters said. “There’s no
drug worse than meth.”
But he said his office can’t
focus too much on a single drug
at the expense of other threats
like heroin, cocaine, prescription
drugs and marijuana.