Testimony

Statement by
Charles Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
Administrator
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
on
Prevention and Treatment of Methamphetamine Abuse
before
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education
and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

April 21, 2005

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Charles G. Curie, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I am pleased to present SAMHSA's substance abuse prevention and treatment response to the growing methamphetamine crisis. It is abundantly clear that many of our most pressing public health, public safety, and human services needs have a direct link to substance use disorders. This obvious link is why the Administration places such a great importance on increasing the Nation's public health approach to prevention and to increasing the Nation's substance abuse treatment capacity.

SAMHSA is working to do just that. Our everyday work at SAMHSA is structured around our vision of "a life in the community for everyone" and our mission "to build resilience and facilitate recovery." Our collaborative efforts with our Federal partners, States and local communities, and faith-based organizations, consumers, families, and providers are central to achieving both our vision and mission. Together, we are working to ensure that the 22.2 million Americans with a serious substance abuse problem have the opportunity to live, work, learn, and enjoy healthy lifestyles in communities across the country.

Much of what the future holds for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse is illustrated on the SAMHSA Matrix, a visual depiction of SAMHSA's priority programs and the cross-cutting principles that guide program, policy, and resource allocations of the Agency. Over the past four years, we have worked hard to align SAMHSA's resources to create systemic change. As we said we would, we have invested our available resources in the program priority areas outlined in the Matrix to provide a comprehensive, tactical approach to preventing substance abuse, promoting mental health, and treating addiction and mental illness.

Equipping communities with substance abuse treatment capacity is a clear priority for President Bush, HHS Secretary Leavitt, and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Walters. The Administration has embarked on a strategy that has two basic elements: discouraging drug use and reducing addiction; and disrupting the market for illegal drugs.

The strategy is backed by a $12.4 billion Federal anti?drug budget in FY 2006. SAMHSA has a lead role to play in the demand reduction side of the equation. SAMHSA helps stop drug use before it starts through education and community action, and we heal America's drug users by getting treatment resources where they are needed.

I am pleased to report that our strategy is working. By focusing our attention, energy, and resources, we as a nation have made real progress. The most recent data from the 2004 Monitoring the Future Survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), confirms that we are steadily accomplishing the President's goal to reduce teen drug use by 25 percent in five years. The President set this goal with a two-year benchmark reduction of 10 percent. Last year we met and exceeded that goal. Now at the three-year mark, we have seen a 17 percent reduction and there are now 600,000 fewer teens using drugs than there were in 2001.

Additionally, the most recent findings from SAMHSA's 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health clearly confirm that more American youth are getting the message that drugs are illegal, dangerous, and wrong. For example, 34.9 percent of youth in 2003 perceived that smoking marijuana once a month was a great risk, as opposed to 32.4 percent of youth in 2002. This is an indication that our partnerships and the work of prevention professionals, schools, parents, teachers, law enforcement, religious leaders, and local community anti-drug coalitions are paying off.

We know that when we push against the drug problem, it recedes, and fortunately, today we know more about what works in prevention, education, and treatment than ever before. We also know our work is far from over. In particular, we continue to be very concerned about abuse of prescription drugs and methamphetamine. The use of methamphetamine continues its assault as an extremely serious and growing problem.

THE GROWTH OF METHAMPHETAMINE USE

Methamphetamine use was initially identified in SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related visits to hospital emergency departments and drug-related deaths that are investigated and reported by medical examiners and coroners across the country. In the early to mid 1990's, DAWN data served as an early warning about the rise of methamphetamine use.

Almost immediately, this early alert from DAWN was confirmed through another SAMHSA data reporting and analysis system, the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). TEDS provides information on the demographic and substance abuse characteristics of the 1.9 million annual admissions to facilities that receive State alcohol and/or drug agency funds (including Federal Block Grant funds) for the provision of alcohol and/or drug treatment services. As early as 1992, TEDS data had indicated that methamphetamine treatment admissions were accounting for about 1 percent of all admissions. Within a decade, methamphetamine admissions grew at a rapid rate. Our most current 2002 TEDS data indicates the proportion of admissions for abuse of methamphetamine has grown fivefold from 1992 to 2002, with an increase from 1 percent to 5.5 percent. Of those admitted in 2002 for the treatment of methamphetamine use, three-quarters (74 percent) were white and half (55 percent) of the admissions were male, with an average age at admission of 31 years.

Traditionally, methamphetamine users have been Caucasian, but use is now expanding to Hispanic and Asian populations, and Tribal leaders are reporting increased use of methamphetamines by Native Americans as well. Recent data from SAMHSA's 2002 and 2003 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicates that a much younger population has grown vulnerable to methamphetamine's grip. The NSDUH now reports that young adults aged 18-25 had the highest rate of methamphetamine use among the 12 million Americans over the age of 12 who have used this illicit drug. Fortunately, the rates of past-year methamphetamine use among youths age 12-17 declined from 2002 to 2003, from 0.9 percent to 0.7 percent.

DAWN and TEDS data documented the proliferation of methamphetamine use over time, and a geographic pattern of methamphetamine use among the U.S. population emerged as well. Initially a problem in a few urban areas in the Southwest, methamphetamine use spread to several major Western cities and then east from the Pacific States into the Midwest, and now through the South and Southeast. For the United States as a whole, the methamphetamine/amphetamine admission rate increased by 420 percent between 1992 and 2002. Once thought of as a metropolitan drug problem, methamphetamine, or "meth," has now become a major drug problem in rural America and is the fastest-growing drug threat in the Nation.

The alarming growth of methamphetamine use and, in part, its popularity can be explained by the drug's wide availability, ease of production, low cost, and its highly addictive nature. It is a popular drug because it is a synthetic drug that is easy to make. It is often produced in small, makeshift "laboratories," using equipment and ingredients that are - for the most part - readily available at local drug, hardware, and farm supply stores. The instructions for making methamphetamines are easily found on the Internet, and the equipment needed is as simple as coffee filters, mason jars, and plastic soda or water bottles. Making it even more inexpensive and easy to produce is the essential ingredient, ephedrine or psuedoephedrine. As you know, these substances are commonly found in over-the-counter allergy and cold medicines. Producing an entire batch of methamphetamine can take less than four hours from start to finish, making it more readily available than other illicit drugs.

Complicating the efforts to stop methamphetamine's growth is its highly addictive nature. Immediately, methamphetamine use produces a brief but intense "rush," followed by a long-lasting sense of euphoria that is caused by the release of high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine into areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure. Eventually, methamphetamine leads to addiction by altering the brain and causing the user to seek out and use more methamphetamine in a compulsive manner. Chronic use leads to increased tolerance of the drug and damages the ability of the brain to produce and release dopamine. As a result, the user must take higher or more frequent doses in order to experience the pleasurable effects or even just to maintain feelings of normalcy.

Treatment for methamphetamine use, and substance abuse as a whole, has become an increasingly interconnected process, and the unmet treatment need in this country has become a weight that is carried by many. For example, methamphetamine users and their families, in addition to drug treatment programs, often rely on emergency rooms, the primary health care system, the mental health care system, child and family services, and the criminal justice system, all of which see parts of the problem. Addressing substance abuse, like methamphetamine use, often requires collaboration among law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, probation officers, treatment providers, prevention specialists, child welfare workers, legislators, business people, educators, retailers, and a number of other individuals, agencies, and organizations who all have critical roles in the prevention and treatment process.

SAMHSA'S ROLE IN TREATMENT

To help better serve people with substance use disorders, a true partnership has emerged between SAMHSA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Our common goal is to more rapidly deliver research-based practices to the communities that provide services. SAMHSA is partnering with the pertinent NIH research Institutes - NIDA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - to advance a "Science to Service" cycle. Working both independently and collaboratively, we are committed to establishing pathways to rapidly move research findings into community-based practice and to reducing the gap between the initial development and widespread implementation of new and effective treatments and services.

At the same time, we are working to ensure consumers and providers of mental health and substance abuse services are aware of the latest interventions and treatments. One important tool being used to accelerate the "Science to Service" agenda is SAMHSA's National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices (or NREPP). The value of the registry in the substance abuse prevention area has led SAMHSA to expand this effort to include substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and mental health promotion programs. The NIH Institutes are engaged with SAMHSA in identifying both an array of potential programs for review by the Registry, as well as a cadre of qualified scientists to assist in the actual program review process. We are committed to making the NREPP a leading national resource for contemporary, reliable information on effective interventions to prevent and/or treat mental health and addictive disorders.

To specifically address the needs resulting from methamphetamine abuse, SAMHSA began working in 1999 to evaluate and expand on the Matrix Model (not related to SAMHSA's Matrix), which was developed in 1986 by the Matrix Institute with support from NIDA as an outpatient treatment model that was responsive to the needs of stimulant-abusing patients. SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment compared the Matrix Model to other cognitive behavioral therapies in the largest clinical trial network study to date on treatments for methamphetamine dependence. The result was the development and release of a scientific intensive outpatient curriculum for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction that maximizes recovery-based outcomes.

SAMHSA also created and released "TIP #33: Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders." Treatment Improvement Protocols (TIPs) are best practice guidelines for the treatment of substance use disorders and are part of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant technical assistance program. TIPs draw on the experience and knowledge of clinicians, researchers, and administrative experts. They are distributed to a growing number of facilities and individuals across the country. TIP #33 describes basic knowledge about the nature and treatment of stimulant use disorders. More specifically, it reviews what is currently known about treating the medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse/dependence problems associated with the use of two high-profile stimulants: cocaine and methamphetamine. SAMHSA has also published a Quick Guide for Clinicians as well as Knowledge Application Program (KAP) Keys that are also based on TIP #33.

Education and dissemination of knowledge are key to combating methamphetamine use. SAMHSA's Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs) are providing training, workshops, and conferences to the field regarding methamphetamine. The Pacific Southwest ATTC has developed two digital Training Modules on Methamphetamine. Additionally, SAMHSA has collaborated with ONDCP, the National Guard Bureau's Counter Drug Office, NIDA, and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) on a booklet, video tape, and PowerPoint presentation entitled, "Meth: What's Cooking in Your Neighborhood?" This package of products provides useful information on what methamphetamine is, what it does, why it seems appealing, and what the dangers of its use are.

Additionally, SAMHSA has been working in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration to provide funding to support a series of Governors' Summits on Methamphetamine. These summits provide communities with opportunities for strategic planning and collaboration building to combat methamphetamine problems faced in their own communities. Summits have been held in 15 States, including West Virginia, which will hold its Summit later this week.

SAMHSA also supports and maintains State substance abuse treatment systems through the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. Block Grant funds are used by States as appropriate to address methamphetamine abuse and all other substance abuse treatment needs. Throughout FY 2004 and 2005, SAMHSA also awarded $10.8 million in competitive grants for projects related to treatment for individuals using and/or abusing methamphetamine. Among them were the Methamphetamine Targeted Capacity Expansion (TCE) Grants. Our TCE grant program continues to help States identify and address new and emerging trends in substance abuse treatment needs. In FY 2004, SAMHSA awarded funds to programs in four targeted areas including treatment focused on methamphetamine and other emerging drugs. Grants were awarded to six organizations located in California, Texas, Oregon, and Washington. In FY 2005, SAMHSA expects to award approximately $5.3 million for up to 11 new TCE grants focusing on treatment for methamphetamine addiction.

SAMHSA is working hard through grant mechanisms like the TCE grants to better provide States with the flexibility to begin meeting treatment needs as soon as trends emerge. For example, in FY 2004, SAMHSA provided funding to the States of Iowa and Hawaii for urgent methamphetamine-related treatment needs. Iowa also received funds to address the issue of drug-endangered children who are at risk as a result of living in homes where methamphetamine is manufactured. At the time the Emergency Methamphetamine Treatment Grant was awarded to Hawaii, SAMHSA's TEDS data was indicating a near doubling of adult admissions due to methamphetamine use there.

Hawaii and Iowa are just a few examples of States whose citizens are in need of substance abuse treatment services. As you know, there is a vast unmet treatment need in America, and too many Americans who seek help for their substance abuse problem cannot find it. Our recently released NDSUH for 2003 revealed an estimated 22 million Americans who were struggling with a serious drug or alcohol problem. The survey contains another remarkable finding. The overwhelming majority of people with substance use problems who need treatment - almost 95 percent - do not recognize their problem. Of those who recognize their problem, 273,000 reported that they made an effort but were unable to get treatment.

To help meet that need, SAMHSA will continue to fund services through the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant and through the TCE Grant Program. And, now, within TCE we have Access to Recovery (ATR). Access to Recovery provides us a third complementary grant mechanism to expand clinical substance abuse treatment and recovery support service options.

In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush resolved to help people with a drug problem who sought treatment but could not find it. He proposed ATR, a new consumer-driven approach for obtaining treatment and sustaining recovery through a State-run voucher program. State interest in Access to Recovery was overwhelming. Sixty-six States, territories, and Tribal organizations applied for $99 million in grants in FY 2004. We funded grants to 14 States and one Tribal organization in August 2004. Because the need for treatment is great - as methamphetamine abuse rates alone have demonstrated - President Bush has proposed to increase funding for ATR to $150 million in FY 2006.

Of the States that are now implementing ATR, Tennessee and Wyoming have a particular focus on methamphetamine. The State of Tennessee will use ATR-funded vouchers to expand treatment services and recovery support services in the Appalachians and other rural areas of Tennessee for individuals who abuse or are addicted primarily to methamphetamine. This program also will reach out to community and faith-based organizations to collaborate in this critical effort at a time when Tennessee has emerged as having one of the largest clusters of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories in the country. In these clandestine laboratories, the production of methamphetamine, which can be an extremely dangerous process, often leads to fires and explosions. Tennessee now accounts for three-quarters of such explosions in the South. Along with Tennessee, the Wyoming ATR program is also addressing the methamphetamine problem, focusing its efforts on Natrona County. This county has the second-highest treatment need in the State and is considered to be at the center of the current methamphetamine epidemic in Wyoming.

Wyoming and Tennessee are just two examples of ATR's potential. ATR's use of vouchers, coupled with State flexibility and executive discretion, offer an unparalleled opportunity to create profound positive change in substance abuse treatment financing and service delivery across the Nation. And, although it is reassuring to focus on treatment initiatives and the progress being made, we can and must do more to prevent drug use before it begins.

SAMHSA'S ROLE IN PREVENTION

SAMHSA's earlier efforts in preventing methamphetamine abuse were channeled through its Center for Substance Abuse Prevention's (CSAP) Methamphetamine and Inhalant Prevention Initiative. This initiative funded grantees that were battling methamphetamine's growth in communities across the country. For example, in Oregon, health officials were reporting an increase in the number of youth who were seeking treatment for addiction to methamphetamine. In 2002, the "Oregon Partnership Methamphetamine Awareness Project" was awarded a SAMHSA grant that targets 9th and 10th grade students over a three-year period to prevent substance abuse among young people in school and community settings in rural Oregon. CSAP's Methamphetamine and Inhalant Prevention Initiative was designed to conduct targeted capacity expansion of methamphetamine and inhalant prevention programs and/or infrastructure development at both State and community levels.

To more effectively and efficiently align and focus our prevention resources, SAMHSA launched the Strategic Prevention Framework last year. SAMHSA awarded Strategic Prevention Framework grants to 19 States and 2 territories to advance community-based programs for substance abuse prevention, mental health promotion, and mental illness prevention. We expect to continue these grants and fund seven new grants in FY 2006 for a total of $93 million. These grants are working with our Centers for the Application of Prevention Technology to systematically implement a risk and protective factor approach to prevention across the Nation. Whether we speak about abstinence or rejecting drugs, tobacco, and alcohol; or whether we are promoting exercise and a healthy diet, preventing violence, or promoting mental health, we really are all working towards the same objective - reducing risk factors and promoting protective factors.

The success of the framework rests in large part on the tremendous work that comes from grass-roots community anti-drug coalitions. That is why we are so pleased to be working with the ONDCP to administer the Drug-Free Communities Program. This program supports approximately 775 community coalitions across the country. Consistent with the Strategic Prevention Framework and the Drug Free Communities grant programs, we are transitioning our drug-specific programs to a risk and protective factor approach to prevention. This approach also provides States and communities with the flexibility to target their dollars in the areas of greatest need.

In conclusion, if we continue to foster these initiatives and further our goals of expanding substance abuse treatment capacity and recovery support services and of implementing the strategic prevention framework, we will simultaneously better serve people in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, those with or at risk of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, our homeless, our older adults, and our children and families. We are doing our part at SAMHSA. We have been building systemic change so that no matter what drug trend emerges in the future; States and communities will be equipped to address it immediately and effectively before it reaches a crisis level.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear today. I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Last Revised: April 25, 2005