Meth: Is it really Minnesota's biggest drug problem?


class=img_thumbleft>That's what the Star Tribune wants readers to believe. It's right there in the lede to today's

explainer piece

about about meth lab toxicity. Without citation, reporter Karen Yousa bluntly asserts that meth is "Minnesota's biggest drug problem." Sounds scary. But is it true?

Not by most available statistical measures. Consider, for instance, the Hazelden Foundation's most recent report on drug abuse trends in the five county metro area, home to about half the state's population.

According to the June 2005 survey, meth addiction accounted for approximately ten percent of all admissions to treatment programs in 2004. That's a record high for meth. But it is still 3 percent less than the admissions attributed to cocaine and almost 10 percent less than those attributed to marijuana. Meanwhile, the survey found that cocaine abuse resulted in some 3,046 metro area emergency room visits, compared to just 874 for meth. As to fatal overdoses, the state's "biggest drug problem" produced just 20 deaths, which places it far behind both opiates (72) and cocaine (49).

Of course, any honest reckoning of the relative menace posed by various drugs ought to take into account alcohol. In 2001, according to a Minnesota Department of Health report, the adult beverage industry claimed more than 1,300 lives (and cost the state more than $4.5 billion).

One final note: according the Hazelden report, meth overdoses, meth lab busts and reports of children affected by meth labs all declined slightly in 2004.

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