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Meth costs Georgia $1.3 billion
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Facts about meth

All figures are most recent available.

Cost of meth abuse

Nationally: $23.4 billion

In Georgia: $1.3 billion

Federal meth seizures

2006: 209 kilograms

2007: 16 kilograms

2008: 65 kilograms

Percentage of substance abuse treatment admissions for meth abuse in Georgia

2003: 7.8 percent

2004: 9.2 percent

2005: 12.7 percent

By the numbers

Percentage of federal drug offenses in Georgia that are meth-related: 32 percent

Percentage of Georgia high school students who used meth, 2005: 6.4 percent

Sources: RAND Corp.,
Office of National Drug Control Policy, DEA.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal can see the price of methamphetamine abuse in the faces of the people in his courtroom.

Of the 119 participants in Deal’s felony drug court, roughly a third landed there as a result of methamphetamine charges. Many others abused meth along with other drugs.

The ill effects seem to be long-lasting, from rotted teeth to scarred skin that can cause low self-esteem and hinder participants on the path to self-improvement, Deal said.

"So, even in recovery, many meth users continue to pay a high price for their drug of choice," Deal said.

The cost of methamphetamine abuse in Georgia, from lost productivity to treatment to drug-influenced crimes, was $1.32 billion in 2005, according to a recent study by the RAND Corporation, a California-based nonprofit think tank. Nationwide, meth use cost the country $23.5 billion in 2005, according to the report, "The Economic Cost of Methamphetamine Use in the United States."

"We can say it is a devastating cost, particularly in smaller communities," said Jim Langford, executive director of the fledgling nonprofit Georgia Meth Project. "Talk to any sheriff or foster caregiver and they’ll tell you, absolutely these costs are real, and they’re increasing."

Langford said in some North Georgia counties, three-quarters of all children in foster care are there as a result of their parents’ meth addictions. In northwest Georgia’s Gordon County, 100 percent of foster care is meth-related, Langford said.

In 2008, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration identified Gainesville, along with Atlanta and Dalton, as a metropolitan area in Georgia where meth was the fastest-growing drug problem over the last five years.

Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad Commander Lt. Scott Ware said meth continues to be the top drug of choice for the people arrested by his officers.

"It’s first, but I would say prescription medication is right up there with meth now," Ware said.

Georgia ranks third in the nation for teenage meth abusers per capita, and 51 percent of people entering treatment for meth abuse are between the ages of 12 and 25, according to the Georgia Division of Public Health.

The Georgia Meth Project will try to stem this steady flow of first-time meth users, following in the footsteps of similar initiatives in Montana and Wyoming.

Those programs used sometimes-graphic and controversial ad campaigns to hammer home the message of meth’s dangers. The results in Montana were a 50 percent decrease in first-time users after the ads ran, and another 50 percent decrease following the second ad blitz, Langford said.

"There have been very consistent, proven results," he said.

Langford said the new Atlanta-based Georgia Meth Project, which is funded almost entirely through donations from private corporations, foundations and individuals, looks to work with grassroot organizations like the White County Meth Task Force to tailor the message to the community’s needs and offer support for local efforts.

"We want to make sure we’re making good use of the resources already out there," he said.

Langford said the Georgia Meth Project will use polling research to get a clearer picture of where the state’s meth problem stands.

"We get the benchmark data first, then run the ads, then benchmark again," to measure any results, he said.

After the first round of polling is done and the numbers are compiled, "the ads could be running as early as this fall," Langford said.