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Admit meth is a problem 5-8-07

By TIMBERLY ROSS
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Before problems stemming from methamphetamine
use on American Indian reservations can be alleviated, tribes first
must acknowledge that the drug is a problem, said a member of North
Dakota's Chippewa tribe, Turtle Mountain Band.

“Most people don't want to admit they have a problem as an
individual, let alone a whole community,” said Karrie Azure-Elliott,
deputy director of the Tribal Judicial Institute.

The National Congress of American Indians reported in November that
American Indians have an abuse rate of 1.7 percent, compared with 0.7
percent for whites, and that some reservations have addiction rates
of 30 percent.

But many communities deny there's a meth problem, a mentality that
hinders prevention and treatment, Azure-Elliott said Monday at the
Midwest Methamphetamine Conference.

Meth is an addictive stimulant that can be prepared or “cooked” in
makeshift labs with over-the-counter cold tablets, common household
chemicals and fertilizers.

Also known as crank, ice or crystal, meth can be smoked, snorted,
swallowed or injected. Meth produces a quick, strong high and can
lead to paranoia and terrible fits of withdrawal. Experts say it is
as harmful as heroin and cocaine.

According to the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about
11.7 million Americans ages 12 and older said they've tried meth and
1.4 million said they'd used it in the past month.

Azure-Elliott said American Indians on reservations are susceptible
to meth addictions because they often live in poverty and have
limited employment opportunities - factors commonly attributed to
drug use.

Another issue, she said, is the infiltration of the Mexican drug
cartels into reservations for the sole purpose of selling drugs.

The American Indian congress estimates that 70 percent of all meth in
the U.S. is smuggled from Mexico. Drug rings often set up shop on
reservations because there are complex criminal jurisdiction issues
and police forces are limited, according to the congress.

Jim Snow, vice chairman of the Winnebago tribe, said meth first came
to the reservation in northeast Nebraska about five years ago.

He said efforts to curb meth use arose from community concern. A task
force was set up, and prevention initiatives were implemented in the
schools. Tribal police started stopping suspicious vehicles. The
court system was adjusted to provide stricter punishment for
meth-related crimes.

“You just got to try to use all your resources to combat this
thing,” he said.

Jerry Stubin, a meth researcher whose daughter is serving a six- to
10-year prison term for meth-related charges, said more American
Indians are entering rehab programs for meth than alcoholism.

And one stint often isn't enough, he said. Many people are coming
back four or five times.

“It's really tough to treat,” said Stubin, a member of the Ponca tribe.

Azure-Elliott said meth addicts have difficulty getting appropriate
treatment on reservations because most programs last only for 30 to
45 days, and it takes 18 months to get the drug completely out of the
body.

“It's such an addictive drug,” she said.

Snow said the Winnebago utilize state treatment programs offered by
Nebraska and South Dakota and have been requesting longer stays to
help people kick the habit for good.
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