Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Dan Abrahamson at (510) 295-5635
SACRAMENTO — As methamphetamine use rises across the nation, California has responded by using its landmark voter-approved initiative, Prop. 36, to effectively treat methamphetamine users. Prop. 36, which mandates drug treatment instead of incarceration for first or second low-level nonviolent drug offenders, draws more than half (53%) its clientele from the ranks of methamphetamine users. With more than 19,000 methamphetamine users entering treatment annually under this program, it is clear that no other statewide program in the nation has offered treatment to more methamphetamine users, or graduated more methamphetamine users, than Prop. 36.
Glenn Backes, national health policy director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “When voters passed Prop. 36 in November 2000, methamphetamine was taking its place as the most significant new drug of abuse in California. Because the voters put in place a universal drug treatment system, we now have the nation’s leading program successfully addressing the problem of methamphetamine abuse.”
Prop. 36 is successfully treating ten times more methamphetamine users each year than the state’s “drug court” system reaches, according to recently released drug court data. In its first year, Prop. 36 graduated 5,700 methamphetamine users from treatment; in the program’s second year, 6,700 methamphetamine users completed treatment. Meanwhile, a report issued last month by the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs suggests that no more than 530-650 methamphetamine users graduate from drug court programs on an annual basis.
Backes continued, “The challenge methamphetamine poses is real, but California’s treatment providers have risen to the challenge. We now see methamphetamine users are doing better overall in Prop 36 treatment than users of any other specific illegal drug.”
Data issued last Fall by UCLA researchers showed that 53 percent of Prop. 36 participants cited methamphetamine as their “primary drug” of abuse. While all Prop. 36 participants completed treatment at a rate of 34.4 percent, methamphetamine users completed treatment at a slightly higher rate, 35.2 percent, equal to the completion rate for cocaine/crack (34.3 percent) and somewhat better than the rate for heroin (28.3 percent). New data on Prop. 36 treatment programs is expected to be released next week.