Meth problem in Iowa, not ISU

Matt Kuhns

Few people will deny that methamphetamines are a serious problem, but some people are questioning the level of attention meth has received.

The recent growth in meth use has been the focus of intense media coverage and has been discussed by politicians all the way to the national level.

But officials at Iowa State say meth is not the epidemic problem that it has been reported to be in some cities.

Jeanne Burkhart, coordinator of the ISU Substance Abuse Intervention Program, said for the most part, cases of drug use at ISU appear to have remained stable for the past five to six years.

“I definitely think [meth] is a problem,” she said.

She said ISU, however, has been fortunate enough to avoid the meth problems many of the surrounding communities have encountered.

Department of Public Safety Director Loras Jaeger said one of the reasons hard drugs like meth have not become widespread at ISU is that students who become heavy drug users tend not to remain in school for long.

Jaeger said meth use has increased significantly in Story County during the past year and a half, but for DPS, alcohol abuse remains the most prevalent drug problem, followed by marijuana.

As far as the rest of Ames is concerned, Ames Police Sgt. Randy Kessel said he believes “we’re probably following the national trend.”

Meth currently is the main thrust of Ames’ drug task force, he said.

Kessel said meth has been popular because it is relatively cheap and easy to obtain. But it also is very damaging to the user, he said, which is why law enforcement agencies have been so intent on shutting down meth traffic.

In January, Gov. Tom Vilsack introduced a proposal to assist efforts to fight meth.

The proposal called for devoting more money and personnel to the issue, as well as for establishing life sentences for the manufacture and sale of meth to minors.

Kessel said he would be in favor of devoting more resources to the problem and that any aid the state could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Jaeger, however, questioned some of the proposal’s elements.

“I’m not sure I agree with the idea of life imprisonment [for meth convictions],” he said.

Jaeger said he thought additional funds to reduce meth use could be better spent on prevention and treatment programs.

Nate Ellefson, junior in electrical engineering, is skeptical of the way meth has been played up in media and politics.

Ellefson said he does not believe the infiltration of meth can possibly be proportional to the amount of coverage it has received.

“I think it’s fear-mongering,” he said.

Ellefson said he thinks newspapers in need of stories and politicians searching for an issue have latched onto meth because people are fearful of drugs, particularly in suburban middle-class areas.

“Whether or not [meth] is a legitimate problem, media and politicians are playing it to people it won’t affect much,” he said.