Darn. We were hoping we would be able to fix the meth problem this year and move on.
But, as Gov. Gibbons' meth task force made clear at its meeting this week, this problem won't be going away any time soon.
Hopeless? Not quite. But certainly time-consuming and expensive.
The problem is there is no single solution that will work. Getting tough from a law-enforcement standpoint makes perfect sense. We applaud local law enforcement officers for the many meth arrests they've made recently. It's a dangerous job in a shadowy world, and their efforts as part of the no-tolerance doctrine are critical.
It's what happens next that creates the problems.
The get-tough talk comes at the same time the state is trying to figure out ways to stop the unchecked growth of our prisons. Meth users arrive and leave there every day, and those walking out are well aware how difficult it will be to rebuild their lives in a respectable fashion. Many opt for the easy money they can only find in the drug world. And you can expect plenty of talk about releasing non-violent offenders (drug users) from prison early, with no adequate safety net to catch and rehabilitate them. And the cycle continues.
Rehabilitating drug users is a dicey game. Poorly done rehab programs are hardly worth doing and the good ones take time and cost money - much more money than the state is now spending. Even users who manage to stay drug free for several months sometimes find themselves pulled back by the tentacles of meth and those who deal it.
And one ugly fact is that many of the people who need treatment are mothers or pregnant women who've lost the ability to make sensible decisions. They'll be raising children who aren't likely to do much better, based on their surroundings. And the cycle continues.
There's no cold turkey with the meth problem. It will have to be a top priority this year and next year and the one after that. But not just from law enforcement. Calling the police may get the drug users out of your neighborhood in the short term, but long term answers are complex. It's going to take education to keep people from getting started in the first place and it will take financial commitments for programs that will help drug users break the cycle.