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National | Opinion
Sen. Thune: Addressing meth in Indian Country


The following is the opinion of Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota).

South Dakota towns, both large and small, are great places to live, to work, and to raise families. Like towns and cities everywhere, however, there are problems that endanger lives and can tear at the fabric of our communities. South Dakota has a tragically high rate of methamphetamine abuse, and I believe that we must take steps to combat this crisis to ensure a better life for our children.

Meth is particularly dangerous because it can be easily made from commonly found ingredients and it has a highly addictive, powerful, lasting effect on users. Also, the production of meth produces large quantities of toxic waste, which poses a danger to everyone in the community, not just users and manufacturers.

I have joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in sponsoring a resolution designating November as “National Methamphetamine Awareness Month.” This resolution calls for parents, school districts, local governments, and other interested parties to increase the awareness of meth abuse and its consequences among students through education and outreach.

Part of what makes meth abuse so tragic is the disproportionate usage rate among minorities, particularly Native Americans. Higher meth use rates in Native American communities have been linked to higher death rates for young people, including higher suicide rates. This situation clearly must be addressed, both in schools and communities, as well as through law enforcement.

According to the National Association of Counties, local sheriffs across America report that meth abuse is directly contributing to increased crime rates. The cost of law enforcement, both in combating meth production and trafficking, and as a result of meth induced crimes, is putting a strain on law enforcement agencies across South Dakota and across the country.

Similarly, the cost of meth-related health care and social services is increasing. Meth destroys families and forces children out of homes. Meth abuse patients frequently end up in public emergency rooms, which increases costs and could potentially make it more difficult for other patients seeking urgent care.

There is no silver bullet solution for meth abuse in rural America. Parents must emphasize with their children the importance of living a drug-free life, and schools must reinforce this message in the classroom. Furthermore, we must continue to give law enforcement officials at all levels of government the resources they need to shut down meth production and trafficking. Meth does not need to continue to tear families and communities apart, but to stop it will require all of us to do our part.