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National Editorial & Columnists

Despite progress, meth still problem

Nation must not let its guard down

Although methamphetamine lab seizures and arrests declined nationwide in 2012, it’s far too early to consider the problem solved.

Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provided statistics to The Associated Press that showed 12,694 meth lab incidents were reported around the country last year, down 5.5 percent from the 13,390 reported in 2011. It marked the second straight year that the numbers had declined, as the nation recorded 15,196 meth lab incidents in 2010. However, analysts warn that two consecutive years of declining numbers do not necessarily constitute a trend. It’s too early to declare that the meth problem is going away.

Illinois has more reason that most states to maintain its vigilance against this scourge. Our state had the fifth-highest number of meth lab incidents among all states last year with 799.

While it’s true that the number of “traditional” meth labs being uncovered has been in decline around the country, it’s also true that more meth manufacturers are turning to low-tech methods of “cooking” the drug, such as the so-called “one-pot” or “shake and bake” technique that allows them to make meth in a soda bottle.

As dangerous as the traditional meth labs are to occupants of the houses where they are located, particularly children, and neighbors, the portable meth labs have the potential to spread contamination and injury almost anywhere a vehicle or person can go. ...

We need to get meth labs off the streets and out of the small towns, but we won’t be able to incarcerate our way out of this problem. Education, intervention and treatment programs must be improved.

The lower numbers of seizures are good news, but it’s far too early to let our guard down.

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