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Treatment Over Incarceration In Methamphetamine Cases

Policies that educate and treat methamphetamine abusers are more successful than ones aiming to frighten them or put them in jail, a drug policy group said in a report released Tuesday.

The report by the Drug Policy Alliance outlines methods of prevention, treatment, policing practices and advocacy programs like needle exchanges and health testing that the group said is effective in reducing meth abuse and addiction.

So far, only New Mexico has implemented a "four pillar" program incorporating the strategy. Bill Piper, the alliance's director of national affairs, said similar approaches have been successful in Europe, Australia and Vancouver, Canada.

Those programs have resulted in reductions of drug users, overdoses and HIV-AIDS and hepatitis infections, Piper said.

The group also praised a pilot program in Utah that has placed 200 offenders in treatment rather than jail.

The Drug Policy Alliance advocates prevention and treatment. Incarceration costs more to states and also to families, doing little to rehabilitate users and avoid repeat offenses, Piper said.

The group wants to shut down "scare tactic" programs like the Montana Meth Project, which produced a series of public service ads, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE

The group also worked with California to develop Proposition 36 - the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act in 2001. The program places 35,000 people in drug treatment instead of jail each year, 19,000 of which are meth users.

It's treating the problem of drug addiction instead of putting people behind bars for simple drug or paraphernalia possession, said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, an alliance coordinator for California.

Availability of Meth

The large-scale availability of meth in rural areas combined with the lack of needle exchange programs and HIV-AIDS education is a "ticking time bomb," Piper said.

Arkansas poses special challenges because it is a rural state, said Fran Flener, the state's drug director. Flener said she is an advocate for treatment.

Arkansas has 39 drug courts that place people in treatment programs that include mandatory employment, drug testing, treatment, counseling and court appearances. The programs are generally 18 months long, and people in rural areas must often drive far distances for court appearances and to be drug tested several times per week.

Flener said Arkansas has 19 drug task forces throughout the state, and is working on statewide measures to deal with meth and other drugs.

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