Twin Cities meth use on the declineby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
Student methamphetamine abuse is dropping in the Twin Cities area. A new state report shows that among high school seniors, meth use fell to 2 percent last year. That's a drop of nearly 3 percent since 2004. But the report also shows that other illegal drugs, including marijuana, Ecstasy and LSD, are becoming more popular among seniors. And alcohol remains the most widely used substance for most students.
St. Paul, Minn. — The report was released by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. It contains responses gathered from two surveys of secondary and college students. It also includes data from government databases, hospital emergency rooms and treatment centers.
In addition to the meth decline noted in the student surveys, the report also shows that meth admissions to addiction programs have dropped. Carol Falkowski compiled the report. She directs the Chemical Health Division at the Department of Human Services.
Falkowski says the data doesn't necessarily mean that meth use is down overall, since these statistics are just indicators of what's happening in particular populations. But she does think it's possible that meth abuse is finally stalling, or even reversing.
"I think what's encouraging is that we started to see these declines since 2006, and they're continuing to go down," she says.
Falkowski credits pressure from law enforcement for a good share of the apparent methamphetamine decline. She says meth seizures continue to outnumber all other illegal drug seizures in the state.
But the report also revealed some troubling trends. It found that high school seniors in the Twin Cities metro are using more marijuana, Ecstasy and LSD.
Falkowski says Ecstasy use grew from 4 percent in 2004 to 6 percent last year.
"Now it appears that there's a resurgence in the Ecstasy supply, and that the source of that Ecstasy is -- somewhat surprisingly -- Canada," says Falkowski. "Even cities as far south as Miami are seeing renewed supplies of Ecstasy."
Marijuana use was up 4 percent from three years ago. And LSD use rose more than 1 percent, according to the student survey.
Falkowski says she was surprised to see that LSD is becoming more popular. She says many people who grew up in the '60s probably know someone who was significantly harmed by LSD. But she says that history appears forgotten now.
"Forty years later, we have this generational forgetting and kids are using it again, because it is a drug that can have long-term psychological consequences," says Falkowski. "But maybe each generation needs to learn that on their own."
The report underscores, though, that of all drugs, alcohol remains the most widely abused.
Sixty-one percent of high school seniors reported that they had consumed alcohol within the past year. And treatment for alcohol accounted for half of all treatment admissions statewide in 2007.
Yet Falkowski says alcohol abuse doesn't seem to worry society quite as much as other drug addictions.
"Sometimes parents may think, 'Well, at least my child isn't using methamphetamine, at least it's just alcohol.' Well, there are kids treated every weekend across this state for alcohol poisoning," says Falkowski. "And none of them ever dreamed when they woke up in the morning that they would wind up nearly dying that evening from alcohol."
Falkowski says the student survey did reveal some hopeful news regarding alcohol. Over the past three years, alcohol use among ninth graders in the Twin Cities has dropped 5 percent. And the rate has dropped 2 percent among sixth graders.
- All Things Considered, 01/28/2008, 5:20 p.m.