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Feds Crank Up Meth Fight

Top officials from the Bush administration announced new efforts to battle methamphetamine abuse, including a training laboratory for police agencies and $16.2 million in grants to focus on treatment of addicts.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and drug czar John Walters made the announcement Thursday at the Davidson County Drug Court and Treatment Center, the only drug court in the nation with a treatment and residential facility attached.

"This war has to be strategically fought," Leavitt said. "It's about prevention, it's about treatment and strong enforcement."

Meth, an addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system, is usually produced in clandestine labs with over-the-counter cold tablets and common household chemicals.

The administration had been criticized as favoring drug abuse prevention over more law enforcement in battling meth. But Walters said the president's $12.4 billion drug control budget is being used "in a balanced way."

"We have to have the treatment and prevention, in addition to security resources," he said.

Bush plans to grant higher priority to the prosecution of meth cooks and repeat offenders. The Justice Department will also establish a forensic science training laboratory to educate federal, state and local law enforcement officers and chemists in the production of meth so that they are better equipped to investigate meth cases.

The initiative includes $16.2 million over three years for 11 new mental health and substance abuse services grants that focus on treatment of meth addiction.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, whose state has be among the hardest hit by the spread of meth, applauded the announcement.

"We are not going to solve the problem overnight, but if we stay focused, we will make a difference," he said.

Last year, Tennessee law enforcement authorities seized 1,574 labs across the state — the second-highest lab seizure rate in the nation, behind Missouri, according to officials. Tennessee law now requires pharmacies to put certain cold and sinus products that contain pseudoephedrine behind the counter.

Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., said in a statement that he is glad Bush recognizes the need for additional resources to fight meth, but the plan is does not go far enough to restrict products containing pseudoephedrine.

Talent supports regulations that would move cold medicines containing the drug behind pharmacy counters and limit how much one person can buy to 7.5 grams a month.

For Gregg Martin, 34, who is leaving Norman's residential treatment program after 15 months, treatment is the key that has given him another chance at life.

"Without it, I'd be in the penitentiary, or dead," he said.