Ashland has never been known as a hotbed of methamphatmine use, and now abuse of the dangerous drug appears to be waning in outlying areas as well.

However, Police Chief Terry Holderness said the declining numbers shouldn't give Ashlanders a false sense of security.

"It might not be as significant (in Ashland) as it is in other communities," he said. "But anytime there's meth in a community, it's a problem."

Holderness said that of the department's 175 narcotics cases between June 30 last year and July — this year, 24 of them involved meth.

"And I'm sure there's some meth activity we're missing," he said. "But it's not as open as it is in other places, like when you see it being sold right on the streets."

Holderness attributes Ashland's relatively low meth occurrences to the city's demographics.

"Ashland has a relatively high number of retirees," he said. "And that population is not typically known for getting into meth problems.

Holderness also said he'd heard from school officials that Ashland teens look down on meth use and consider it rather "low brow" and not as culturally acceptable here.

The 2007 Oregon Healthy Teen Survey results support Holderness' statement.

In the spring of 2007, 142 of 258 students from the class of 2008 that just graduated this June participated in the study.

The results show that 1.4 percent of the students said they had used meth in the past 30 days, compared with 47.5 percent who said they had used alcohol, 25 percent who had smoked pot and 10.4 who had used prescription drugs.

"I personally feel marijuana and alcohol abuse is a bigger problem in our teen population than meth," said Holderness.

Dr. Jim Shames, medical director of the Jackson County Health Department in Medford, confirmed that Ashland residents have extremely low meth addiction numbers.

"I worked at the Jackson County Jail and didn't see a lot of people coming from Ashland," he said. "Also, as you go up the education scale, meth use tends to drop off."

Outside


Methamphetamine use in Jackson County is on the decline, according to law enforcement officials, Department of Human Services supervisors and drug treatment workers.

Mike Winters, sheriff for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, said the numbers are stabilizing and slightly declining and he attributes that to a July 2006 Oregon law that requires a prescription for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, two chemicals typically used to manufacture meth.

According to the Oregon Drug Enforcement Administration's Web site, Oregon meth lab incidents dropped from 375 in 2003 to 20 in 2007.

Rita Sullivan, executive director on On Track, a substance abuse treatment program in Medford and Ashland, said the new law basically wiped out in-home meth labs in Jackson County.

While the county may be seeing less meth use, public health officials are still concerned about all substance abuse, whether it's alcohol, meth or prescription drugs.

"The number one reason kids are removed from the home is because of parental substance abuse," Sullivan said. "It touches almost every domestic problem we face, almost without exception: unemployment, poverty issues, over crowed jails, child abuse, you name it."

Reach reporter Michele Mihalovich at 482-3456 ext. 226 or .