Thursday, June 06, 2002

Abuse of meth climbing quickly

By Jim Hannah,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEXINGTON — Federal drug officials and police said Wednesday that methamphetamine use in Kentucky is increasing at an alarming rate, just as police figure out how to combat the widespread abuse of the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin.

        “Methamphetamine abuse is at epidemic levels in Western Kentucky,” said Drug Enforcement Administration official John Lunt. “Officials are looking for ways to address the problem.”

        Mr. Lunt, chief of community education and prevention for the agency, was one of more than 350 law enforcement officials, educators and health care officials who attended the opening Wednesdayof the Kentucky Methamphetamine Summit at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lexington.

        State Police Lt. Kevin Payne said law enforcement officials had busted 120 methamphetamine labs in Kentucky as of the third week of May, a 50 percent increase over the same period last year. In 2001, there were a total of 160 methamphetamine lab busts in Kentucky, compared to 104 in 2000.

        The conference ends today and is designed to develop strategies in fighting drug abuse across Kentucky.

        The popularity of OxyContin abuse in Eastern Kentucky, beginning in late 2000, earned the powerful prescription painkiller the nickname “hillbilly heroin,” but officials said they are seeing the abuse of the drug level off, partly because of stringent enforcement measures.

        “Although methamphetamine and OxyContin are two different drugs affecting two different parts of the state,” Lt. Payne said, “both are problems that need to be immediately addressed.

        Methamphetamine can be ingested by swallowing, inhaling, injecting or smoking.


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