Methamphetamine is becoming a problem in a number of U.S. cities, says the Associated Press. Some of the evidence: Meetings of the 12-step group Crystal Meth Anonymous have increased in Chicago from one night a week a few years ago to five a week. In the Atlanta area, meth users account for the fastest-growing segment of addicts seeking treatment. Officials in Minneapolis-St. Paul say they’re treating an alarming number of meth users younger than 18. “Most people just think it happens in the farmlands and the prairies or out back behind the barn,” says Carol Falkowski of the Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota. That’s not the case anymore. She found that meth addicts represent about 10 percent of patients admitted to drug treatment programs in the Twin Cities, compared with 7.5 percent a year ago and about 3 percent in 1998.
Experts who track urban drug trends for National Institute on Drug Abuse are meeting this week in Long Beach, Ca. Some have noted a big jump in the use of meth – particularly in its potent crystal form – in the past six months to a year. “It’s the new major drug threat,” says Jim Hall of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. “Here, it’s almost like the early days of cocaine, when cocaine was the chic, expensive champagne of street drugs,” says Hall, noting that users come to Miami’s South Beach strip in search of the purest, most expensive meth available. Experts say the drug started to catch on in urban areas in the club and rave scenes and sometimes among particular populations, such as gay men. That’s been the case in such cities as Washington, D.C., and Chicago, says Thomas Lyons of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Often, he says, meth use has been associated with increases in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.