On my most recent telephone town hall with 28,000 Montanans, nearly 95 percent agreed that meth is a problem in Montana. Certainly, Barbara from Billings knows this to be true – she shared with me that her son is currently recovering from meth.
One third of the record 3,400 children in Montana’s foster care system are there because of methamphetamine use by their parents. In 2016, 53 percent of the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation Narcotics Bureau investigations involved meth. And the national number of drug overdose deaths involving meth more than doubled in a span of four years, from 1,388 in 2010 to 3,728 in 2014. One monetary estimate of meth’s cost, just to the state of Montana, is $78 million. The cost of broken families, lost futures, and missed opportunities, however, is immeasurable. And the numbers are growing. It’s a sad truth - every corner of the Treasure State has scars left by meth. We’ve seen the reports – mothers and fathers beating their children to death, boyfriends murdering their girlfriends, high-speed car chases, stolen property and drug busts across the street from elementary schools.
For those who have already fallen victim to meth, we need to provide care. Meth ruins lives – not just the lives of the user, but also their loved ones. Those who use meth soon find themselves making meth their No. 1 priority over their loved ones, their communities and their jobs. Once addicted to meth, a deadly cycle begins.
And too often, children are the ones left in the wake of meth’s crash. They are abandoned, abused and sadly, sometimes even hooked on the drug themselves. Exposure to meth at any age is horrible, but when young, impressionable children are exposed to drugs, it is heartbreaking.
To those of us aware of meth’s effects, it seems hard to fathom why anyone would choose this drug’s path of destruction. Once beautiful faces riddled with sores, once life-giving smiles full of rotting teeth and once bright personalities suddenly dulled by anxiety, confusion and violence. But that’s just it, those who are addicted to meth aren’t aware of meth’s effects.
They don’t know that meth is a slave maker driving its victims to steal from, lie to and hurt loved ones just to stay within its grips. They don’t know that using meth may increase risks for other diseases like Parkinson’s, HIV and hepatitis.
Which is why we need to do more to raise awareness about the meth epidemic in our state. For those of us who do know the risk associated with meth, it is incumbent upon us to share that information with those who don’t.
Twice, I have spoken with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly about the issue of meth being brought into the U.S. through our southern border. We must do everything we can to keep meth from coming into our country and getting into the hands of our children and I will continue to work with Kelly and press for greater border security to fight against drug smuggling. Kelly agrees, however, that stopping the demand for meth is of the utmost importance and called for a holistic approach: border security, internal U.S. law enforcement, partnering with Mexico and decreasing demand.
The meth fight will be challenging, but we can win and we will win. It is imperative that all forms of government work together. I commend the efforts by our state officials and local law enforcement to combat this growing epidemic.
Community involvement, education, prevention and treatment – these are the tools we need to defeat meth in Montana and I am committed to bolstering these efforts so we can kick meth out of Montana once and for all. I’m asking for you to share your story if you or a family member has been impacted by meth addiction. Here is the website: www.daines.senate.gov/connect/share-your-meth-story.