A new report shows the methamphetamine epidemic in Iowa continues to lose momentum, but state officials are quick to point out that it’s still a serious problem. Iowa Drug Policy Coordinator Gary Kendell says, so far this year, Iowa law enforcement officers have busted 151 meth labs.
"That’s still too many," Kendell said at a press conference Thursday in Des Moines. "It’s an 88-percent reduction from the 1,500 we used to have a year…but that’s still 151 labs and that’s a lot of resources from all the disciplines involved in trying to deal with that problem."
Kendell is urging lawmakers to expand on the legislation passed several years ago that restricts the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can purchase at one location. The drug is a key ingredient in the production of meth. The proposed legistlation would create an electronic system to monitor all pseudoephedrine sales, to keep meth-makers from from buying the drug at multiple pharmacies.
Kathy Stone, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the number of treatment center clients citing meth as their primary substance of abuse last year dropped 34-percent. Alcohol is still the primary substance of abuse in the state. Marijana is second, followed by meth. "Saying methamphetamine is third does not mean it’s no longer a problem for us," Stone said. "We remain concerned about meth use in general and about meth use in specific populations, for example, moms with kids."
Kevin Frampton, director of the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, says the reduction in meth labs has helped – but the drug is still readily available to users, thanks primarily to drug traffickers from Mexico. "Right now, we’re focusing on the larger drug trafficking organizations and we’re trying to dismantle those groups," Frampton said.
The report also shows drug-related prison admissions have dropped for the fourth straight year, but cites prescription and over-the-counter drug use as the fastest growing form of substance abuse in Iowa. Frampton says narcotics agents have worked 79-percent more prescription drug cases so far this year compared to all of 2007.