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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Walters
Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
August 19, 2005

John Walters

Thank you for your interest in the national methamphetamine challenge and the Federal government's comprehensive and balanced approach to reducing meth production, trafficking, and abuse. I look forward to your questions and comments on this very important public health and public safety issue.

Lisa, from South Bend writes:
How can our schools effectively teach our children the dangers of this new drug? And if more parents are taking the drug, how can we ensure children don't learn from their poor choices?

John Walters
It is critical for parents, teachers, and community leaders to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs. The more frequently this important issue is addressed, the less likely young people are to use drugs. A recent study has shown that two-thirds of kids say that losing their parent’s respect is one of the main reasons they don’t use drugs. For more information on how to talk to youth about drugs and for additional resources, please visit:

Additionally, many communities are finding school-based drug testing programs to be an effective prevention tool. In addition to creating a culture of disapproval toward drugs, student drug testing achieves three public health goals: 1) it deters children from initiating drug use; 2) it identifies children who have just started using drugs so that parents and counselors can intervene early; and 3) it helps identify children who have a dependency on drugs so that they can be referred to effective drug treatment. For more information on how to start a student drug-testing program in your school, please visit:

Paul, from Los Angeles writes:
Director Walters,Thank you for taking questions. I feel as if just recently the news, politicians, etc. have been talking about the meth problem in our country. However, hasn't meth been around for a while? What is the reasoning for this recent increase in awarenessconcern for the drug?

Thank you, Paul

John Walters
Paul, you are correct - methamphetamine has plagued some areas of our Nation for years. Last month, I met with public officials and health and law enforcement professionals from the state of Hawaii, all of whom indicated that meth has been a public health and safety challenge in their communities for nearly two decades. Once largely confined to western states and rural areas, methamphetamine has now spread and threatens to break-out into regions and populations that have not yet suffered from this drug.

According to national surveys, in 2003, approximately 600,000 Americans used meth at least once in the past month. Drug treatment admissions for methamphetamine are up 484 percent between 1993 and 2003 and emergency room visits related to meth have increased 54 percent between 1995 and 2002.

But while these numbers indicate there is cause for serious concern, there is no cause for despair. As a Nation, we have fought back against other insidious and addictive drugs, and have done so successfully. Meth addiction can be overcome. Communities can come together to push back against this threat. For more information and resources on how you can help in your area, please visit

Tony, from Arlington, Virginia writes:
What direct and immediate action is the Bush Administration taking against meth? Action needs to be taken NOW--this is a very dangerous drug about to ruin our nation.

John Walters
The Federal government, working with our state and local partners, is aggressively working to reduce methamphetamine production, trafficking, and abuse to prevent the challenge from getting out of control across the country. The Administration’s efforts are focused on four core areas: prevention and treatment; law enforcement; education; and management of the drug’s unique consequences. These efforts include, among others, the following:

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has established a National Resource Center on Child Protective Services to provide technical assistance to state and local Child Protective Services agencies to improve their prevention, assessment, and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Additionally, funding of meth-related research has increased almost 150 percent over the past four years.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Mobile Enforcement Teams have recently prioritized the investigation of methamphetamine crimes and are coordinating with DEA's Clandestine Lab Enforcement Teams to help local law enforcement identify and arrest drug traffickers by sharing and analyzing intelligence. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been working to better train law enforcement officials on fighting meth, by more than tripling the number of methamphetamine task force training sessions offered to law enforcement since 2004.

We are helping to educate our young people about the dangers of methamphetamine by releasing the first-ever Federal ads targeting meth through our National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign this fall. The new ads will launch in areas that have been particularly hard-hit by methamphetamine and will serve to mobilize local communities against this drug threat.

Finally, ONDCP and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) just yesterday launched a new Web site,, to bring together information and resources available to communities on the topic of methamphetamine. The Web site also enables visitors to share information and best practices with one another, as well as pose questions to their peers.

Darcy, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin writes:
Director Walters--Meth seems as if it isn't the same type of drug as pot and cocaine in the sense that those who you wouldn't think do it, they do, as well as I haven't heard anything about illegally importing meth or it being part of gang activity.

Why is it that meth is such a different type of drug and how can we most effectively combat this terrible drug?

John Walters
Methamphetamine is a dangerous and highly addictive drug. Meth changes fundamental structures of the brain to produce prolonged and pervasive damage to mental function. Eventually, feelings of intense fear and paranoia emerge and ultimately lead to psychosis.

Meth presents significant dangers from a public safety perspective, as well. Criminal gangs are taking over the trafficking of methamphetamine, increasingly from Mexico. Those who make the drug here at home experiment with highly volatile and toxic chemicals that poison those exposed to them (all too often, children), or that explode and burn many innocent victims, including law enforcement personnel and other first responders.

Yesterday, Attorney General Gonzales, HHS Secretary Leavitt, and I announced several initiatives the Administration is undertaking to reduce the production, trafficking, and abuse of methamphetamine. You can learn more about the initiatives announced yesterday by visiting, and more about our existing efforts by reading the National Synthetic Drugs Action Plan, available at

Margaret, from Oakland, Michigan writes:
As the mother of a teenager, there is often the concern that other teenagers might influence my son. With that being said--what are warning signs of kids using meth? I think it is always be good to be more aware in today's world. Thank you.

John Walters
Parents need to particularly vigilant in looking for any signs of meth use. Even one exposure to this drug can lead some young people down a ruinous path. Tips for parents can be found at

It is important to note that most young people do not use meth. In fact, since 2001, there has been a 25 percent decline in youth methamphetamine use. Many young people, however, are at risk for substance abuse, including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to have conversations about substance abuse with your child. Make it clear that substance abuse is not acceptable in your family or in your community. If you know or suspect your child has been using drugs or engaged in underage drinking, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers assistance locating counseling and treatment services at

Edward, from Ohio writes:
Do you help organazations or people who could ceartinly use help in helping others? I ask for myself, I am starting a organazation in the fight against drugs. Currently I am just asking if you could stay in contct with me so I may be able to pick you brain. I know with someone like you by my side more people could be helped. Thank You Edward Kasper P.S. Any way you could help would benefit us all.

John Walters
Thank you for your dedication and commitment to reducing drug use in your community. The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America ( offers assistance in creating community anti-drug organizations. Additionally, my office directs the Drug-Free Communities Support Program in partnership with SAMHSA. This anti-drug program provides grants of up to $100,000 to local coalitions that mobilize their communities to prevent youth alcohol, tobacco, illicit drug, and inhalant use. The grants support coalitions of youth; parents; media; law enforcement; school officials; faith-based organizations; fraternal organizations; state, local, and tribal government agencies; healthcare professionals; and other community representatives. The Drug-Free Communities Support Program enables the coalitions to strengthen their coordination and prevention efforts, encourage citizen participation in substance abuse reduction efforts, and disseminate information about effective programs.

For more information on how to apply for grants and start your own community coalition, please visit:

Daniel, from Great Barrington, MA writes:
Is the Office of National Drug Control Policy going to support any restrictions on the sale of cold medicines, which help make meth? Thanks.

John Walters
As you probably know from the recent media coverage, several states have enacted legislation that restricts the retail sale of products containing pseudoephedrine, a chemical used in the production of methamphetamine. Many of these states are reporting positive results.

The Administration strongly supports Congressional action to control access to meth precursor chemicals and suggests that Federal legislation addressing this issue contain an individual purchase limit of 3.6 grams per transaction for retail sales of over the counter pseudoephedrine products as an effective approach. Any restrictions placed on retail access to over the counter cold medicines must balance the needs of law enforcement with the need for continued legitimate consumer access to widely used and effective cold medicines. There may be many ways to achieve this balance and these options should be carefully considered by Congress and by state and local officials.

Chris, from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA writes:
John, Good luck on that war on drugs buddy, you're going to need it.

John Walters
Thanks, Chris. Drug use is a difficult and persistent problem that costs our Nation billions of dollars in health care and public safety costs, along with lost productivity, stunted achievement, and personal heartbreak and loss for millions of Americans. While we’re encouraged that teen drug use has declined by 17 percent over the past three years, we know that there’s a lot more work to be done. With the help of concerned citizens like you, we can continue to make this problem smaller.

John, from Redding, Calif. writes:
Why is methamphetmine not the nations most wanted in terms of stopping this plague. I know that Marijuana is a gateway drug but meth is so much more dangerous. Meth Dealers and drug dealers in general should be put away for life or given the death penalty for multiple offenses I have had patients who have become addicted to meth with one use. This is very distressing. Please make meth a top priority of this administration -John

John Walters
Meth is undeniably a uniquely destructive drug. Federal drug control is based on a balanced strategy arraying different programs against different parts of the addiction threat. The policy challenge is using the right tool for the right job, and that’s what we’re doing with meth, as with other drugs.

As Attorney General Gonzales announced yesterday, Federal law enforcement agencies are bringing new pressure to bear on the meth challenge, by giving higher priority than ever before to Federal prosecution of meth cooks and repeat offenders, by targeting suppliers of diverted precursor chemicals, and by providing more opportunities for law enforcement training.

As a physician, you know first-hand the power of prevention and healing. HHS Secretary Leavitt announced yesterday that the Department of Health and Human Services will award $16.2 million over three years for 11 Targeted Capacity Expansion grants focusing on treatment for meth addiction. This funding is in addition to the $1.8 billion states receive for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. The President has also requested an additional $50 million for his Access to Recovery program, which allows states to expand their treatment capacities through a voucher system that enlists the support and expertise of faith-based and community based organizations.

Thomas, from Temecula writes:
What is the federal government doing to ensure that the (currently easy to get) ingredients for making methamphetamines will be unavailable for illicit use?

John Walters
Because meth is a synthetic drug, one of the most effective ways to reduce its prevalence in our communities is to deny access to the essential ingredients used in its production. As I indicated in a previous question, the Administration supports the development of Federal legislation that would restrict the diversion of precursor chemicals used to make methamphetamine. In addition to individual purchase limit of 3.6 grams per transaction for products containing pseudoephedrine, the Administration also supports elimination of the blister pack exemption for pseudoephedrine products, thus requiring all products that contain this precursor chemical to be subject to Federal law, regardless of how they are packaged and sold. Furthermore, in order to help prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals, we support a requirement for pseudoephedrine importers to get approval from the DEA if there is a change in the shipment’s original purchaser.

We have made important progress reducing the amount of bulk precursor chemicals bound for domestic "super labs" (those capable of producing 10 pounds of meth or more in a 24 hour production cycle) through Federal intervention and international cooperation. Between 2001 and 2004, diverted pseudoephedrine/ephedrine from Canada was reduced dramatically, from 21 metric tons to under one metric ton a year. As a result, the number of large domestic super labs fell from 219 in 2001 to only 46 in 2004.

Kevin, from Corona, CA writes:
Which seems to be a better way to combat those addicted to these drugs? Rehabilitation or prison punishment? Or is there a third alternative we can resort to?

John Walters
Drug courts offer an effective alternative to incarceration for low-level, non-violent offenders by combining the authority and judicial discretion of our court system with the healing and rehabilitating capabilities of our treatment system. The main goal of a drug court is not to prosecute, but to provide a way for the offender to change behaviors - in other words, stay off of drugs and out of the criminal justice system. The drug court forms a support system to build a safety net for the participating offender comprised of court and treatment professionals, as well as other social service providers. A program is custom-made for each offender to start their own path to recovery. Typical drug courts provide intensive judicial supervision as well as community supervision, routine drug testing, treatment services, and immediate sanctions and services. In exchange for successful completion of the program, the court may dismiss the original charge, reduce or set aside a sentence, offer some lesser penalty, or offer a combination of these. Evaluations of drug courts have found them to save money and to reduce recidivism. Today there are more than 1,600 drug courts across the country. President Bush has requested $70 million – an increase of $30 million – to support the expansion of our national drug court system.

Joshua, from Washington, DC writes:
I'm seventeen years old and highly involved in politics. My question today is how is your office dealing with people in America who still use illegal drugs to ease the pain with medical problems? Thank you,

John Walters
We Americans are blessed with the most advanced system of medicine in the world. We have therapeutic drugs that would have seemed almost unimaginable a generation ago and new products are being brought to market all the time. Our office continues to support the FDA in making sure that the medicines introduced to our citizens are safe and efficacious and stand up to the rigors of scientific scrutiny and public safety. We encourage all Americans to avail themselves of the advances in medical science and technology and to seek appropriate professional attention for medical problems, rather than attempt to self medicate using dangerous drugs and/or illegal drugs.

Jonny, from Washington, DC writes:
How do you react to the claim that methamphetamines are really not the problem, but rather a symptom of a struggling economy and a neglected class of people?

John Walters
Methamphetamine use, like substance abuse in general, is not restricted to any demographic or geodemographic category. Unfortunately, far too many of our family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues are affected by substance abuse and addiction, regardless of where they live or how much money they earn. That is precisely why the President has worked to expand the Nation’s substance abuse treatment capacity. He wants to ensure that all Americans, regardless of whether they live in rural or urban areas, regardless of their socioeconomic status, and regardless of faith, have access to effective treatment and the promise of healing and hope that lies in recovery.

Kristina, from Penn Run, PA writes:
Mr. Walters,What steps should be taken if a person comes across abandoned containers? What are the dangers of approachinginvestigating the containers and its contents?

John Walters
The methamphetamine production process is an extremely dangerous one that involves highly toxic and volatile chemicals that are prone to explosion. To avoid risk of respiratory damage, burns, or even death, law enforcement authorities should be contacted if you suspect you have found an abandoned meth lab.

Lauren, from Washington, D.C. writes:
How are the new measures taken in Oregon to require a prescription for medications such as Sudafed, previously labeled as over-the-counter, addressing the have significant repercussions that will occur on populations who can not afford to visit the doctor each time medication is needed to treat the common cold? I read that alternate medications are being developed, but how soon are they expected to hit the market? Overall, are these steps expected to spread across the country?

John Walters
Different states have taken different approaches to controlling precursor chemicals, based on their own assessment of local law enforcement and consumer access needs. Many states are reporting progress as a result of their legislative and regulatory actions. But it is not yet known how effective these various approaches are, in comparison with each other.

Many private sector organizations are contributing to the effort to reduce meth production, as well. Some pharmaceutical companies are marketing cold medications that contain phenylepherine, an alternative to pseudoephedine that can not be used to make meth. It is the collaborative efforts of governments at all levels, the private sector, and individual citizens that will bring about positive change in the fight against methamphetamine.

Eric, from Tennessee writes:
Dear Mr. Walters, I live in East Tennessee, near several counties notorious for meth labs. While local law enforcement works to stop these dangers to the community, what is the federal government doing to help these efforts?

John Walters
As the Attorney General discussed yesterday, the Federal government is working hard to support the work being done by law enforcement professionals at the state and local levels. The Department of Justice has tripled the number of meth task force training sessions since 2004. The Center for Task Force Training trains local enforcement officials to effectively manage task forces, investigate, and respond to methamphetamine-related cases. In addition, a new forensic science training laboratory is being established to help train state and local law enforcement officers and chemists in how meth is produced and processed, so they can safely and more effectively investigate meth cases.

In addition to training, the DEA is supporting local enforcement efforts through utilization of their Mobile Enforcement Teams (METs). The MET program helps local law enforcement identify drug traffickers; collect, analyze, and share intelligence; and support prosecutorial efforts. To assist in lab cleanup efforts, the DEA is expanding their pilot Clandestine Lab Container program nationally. This program streamlines the hazardous material removal process, and saves state and local governments significant costs in cleanup and law enforcement overtime.

James, from DC writes:
Apparently, there is some question as to the appropriateness of the HHS supporting a conference that discusses harm reduction efforts toward curtailing methamphetamine use. Can you please elaborate on the Administration's stand on this issue? Thank you

John Walters
Organizers of the Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis in Salt Lake City, Utah incorrectly listed HHS as a sponsor of the event. They have removed the Department’s name from the list of sponsors on their website. HHS and the entire Federal government strongly support a balanced approach of emphasizing prevention, treatment, and supply reduction, which has been demonstrably effective at reducing public health threat of drug abuse.

Harm reduction accepts and allows the continued, unabated use of harmful substances and the loss of people to the disease of addiction. At best, harm reduction is half-way measure; a half-hearted approach that accepts defeat. Increasing help is better than decreasing harm. Pretending harmful activity will be reduced if we condone it is foolhardy and irresponsible.

HHS is doing research into the most effective ways to treat meth users – including medications and behavioral therapies – as well as studying the impact of meth use on children. HHS funding of methamphetamine research has increased nearly 150 percent – from approximately $15 million in FY 2000 to more than $37 million in FY 2004.

HHS is also providing training and assistance to child welfare workers in states throughout the country to help them protect the children of meth abusers. In addition, we are educating teens about the dangers of meth use through web sites, Scholastic magazine, and other means.

John Walters

Thank you again for your interest in reducing the methamphetamine threat in this Nation. To stay up to date on the latest information about methamphetamine and to share your experiences with others across the country, join our "DiscussMeth" listserv by visiting

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