Larsen Pushes for Education, Research on &ldquo;Meth Mouth&rdquo; to Help Fight Meth Epidemic</A

Jul 25, 2007

 

Washington, D.C. - Meth Caucus Co-Chair U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) joined colleagues in the House and Senate today to propose bipartisan legislation to address meth mouth, a disease caused by methamphetamine abuse that destroys the teeth of meth addicts, causing permanent damage for users and imposing high costs for treatment on communities in Washington state and across the country.

“Meth is a chemical cocktail that literally rots away your teeth,” said Larsen. “We need to educate young people about what meth does to your body. We need to stop kids from doing meth the first time so they don’t become addicts.”

Larsen and his House colleagues Reps. Brian Baird (WA-03), Mike Ross (AK-04) and John Sullivan (R-OK) introduced the Meth Mouth Correctional Costs and Reentry Support Act and the Meth Mouth Prevention and Community Recovery Act today. They were joined at a Capitol Hill press conference by Senator Max Baucus (MT), who will be introducing similar legislation in the Senate in the coming days.

According to the American Dental Association, jail and prison dental costs have risen sharply as the methamphetamine epidemic has become more widespread.  Almost 30 percent of jail inmates and 25 percent of state prisoners have a history of methamphetamine use. 
Few studies have been published about meth mouth or the oral health needs of inmates generally.  But the Washington State Department of Corrections estimates that $5 million of its $12 million annual inmate dental budget goes toward patients with meth mouth.
Dr. Pat Murphy, dentist for Washington State Reformatory and the Special Offenders Unit in Monroe, Washington, estimates that he has seen approximately 2,000 cases of meth mouth in Washington state patients.
“I've seen patients as young as 18 and 19 years old whose teeth have been destroyed by methamphetamine use,” said Murphy. “All we can do for them is remove all their teeth and put in dentures. Education is the only way to fight this problem.  If kids could see what I see every day in my clinic, no one would do meth.”
Dental problems are common among drug users.  Many do not care for their teeth regularly and most do not see a dentist often.  But methamphetamine takes a unique and horrific toll on the mouths of those who use it.  
The Meth Mouth Prevention and Community Recovery Act would —
 
Make grants available for educating 12 to 17 year-olds about meth mouth (with an eye on preventing first-time methamphetamine use)

Expand and intensify the Department of Health and Human Services’ clinical, health services, and public health research on associations between substance use disorders, oral health, and the provision of dental care

Authorize a study to determine whether, how, and to what degree methamphetamine use affects demand for (and provision of) dental care

Promote a series of continuing education activities for dentists to learn about substance use disorders and their relationship to oral health and the provision of dental care

The Meth Mouth Correctional Costs and Reentry Support Act would —

Expand and intensify the Justice Department’s research on the oral health status of jail and prison inmates and the provision of dental care in correctional facilities

Authorize a study to determine whether, how, and to what degree methamphetamine use affects demand for (and provision of) dental care in correctional facilities

Make interim grants available to revitalize correctional dental programs that have been suddenly and disproportionately taxed by inmate meth mouth

Direct the Attorney General to ensure that oral health and dental care are made part of the Justice Department’s many prisoner reentry initiatives

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