The number of methamphetamine labs and addicts in the Washington, D.C., area has jumped in recent years, but law enforcement and public health officials say the region is still woefully unprepared to deal with a problem that remains under the radar, reports the Washington Post. For years, officials thought the Washington region might be immune to methamphetamine, which has ravaged West Coast and midwest communities for more than a decade. The number of seized meth labs in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D..C., has increased from close to zero in 2000 to more than 80 last year. In Washington, health officials say 75 percent of patients in some clinics have abused the drug.
“The jurisdictions in this area just have not picked up on the exigency regarding crystal meth,” said Sgt. Brett A. Parson, commanding officer of the D.C. police gay and lesbian liaison unit. Sounding the alarm that the meth crisis could become the next crack epidemic, some law enforcement and public health officials are pushing for a stronger response. Some experts are calling for training rank-and-file police officers to detect meth labs, legislation that would restrict the sale of ingredients used to produce the drug, and prevention education in schools to teach children about its dangers. “We really need to stop sitting around and just hoping that meth won’t become the next crack cocaine,” said Kevin Shipman of D.C.’s Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration.