Combating meth: prevention and drug treatment

South Dakota got a lot of state and national publicity last week when its anti-meth campaign was announced: “Meth: We’re on it.” The slogan is meant to connote that the state is aware of the problem and is taking action to reduce or eliminate the use of the highly-addictive drug.
However, that’s not necessarily how it was interpreted, as it was widely mocked on the internet as people were trying to figure out if the state was addressing the problem or its residents were using the drug. Actually, both are true, as the state is tackling the problem and has a high reported incidence of meth use.
We probably would not have picked that particular slogan to kick off the state’s anti-meth campaign, and many others would agree. It was the brainchild of a Minneapolis, Minn., ad agency, Broadhead, which beat out nine in-state ad agencies for the initial $449,000 contract. We have to wonder what the other proposals were from the South Dakota ad agencies, as we have some pretty good ones in the state.
The meth slogan kind of reminds us of tourism officials in Nebraska coming up with less controversial, but somewhat lackluster slogans like “Nebraska Nice” and “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.” When these slogans came out, residents of the Cornhusker state thought tourism officials were out of their minds. So it isn’t only our state officials who make questionable advertising decisions. Gov. Kristi Noem defended her administration’s decision to highlight the challenges ahead, saying, “Meth is a serious problem in South Dakota.” Laurie Gill, the state’s Department of Social Service secretary, backed up her boss when she told NBC News that twice as many state teenagers ages 12 to 17 reported using meth in the past year than the national average.
Gill said 83 percent of court admissions for controlled substances in 2019 involved meth, and between 2014 and 2018, the state saw a 200 percent increase in people seeking treatment with the primary diagnosis of meth addiction. She said, “South Dakota’s meth crisis is growing and it is alarming. It’s hitting every corner of the state.” This is the reason her office launched the awareness campaign and why she is glad people are talking about it, even if they are making jokes, Gill said.
To be clear, the use of meth in the state and in our own country is no laughing matter. The lives of those who use the drug are ruined as their health deteriorates rapidly. Their loved ones are torn apart seeing the obvious physical debilitating affects of the drug and not knowing what to do about it. This brings us back to another issue.
Sure, we want to prevent people from ever experimenting with the drug and getting addicted to it. But what about those who are addicted and want to seek treatment to get off the drug? Where are these addicts supposed to go? The truth is, if the governor is truly interested in combating meth use in South Dakota, she has to realize there is another real problem with a lack of treatment facilities.
The state is again the proud owner of the former STAR Academy property just south of Custer. A new drug treatment facility would be ideal on part of that property. The rest could be sold at auction. Now that we have raised awareness of the problem, let’s address it at both ends: prevention and treatment. What are we waiting for?

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