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New laws helping, but Meth still problem in state

New state laws aimed at reducing the number of illegal methamphetamine labs seem to be working, but they haven't put much of a dent in the sale and use of the highly-addictive drug.

New figures on the number of meth labs in the state show a significant drop in the past year.

Dena Roland Burnett County Sheriff attributes that to the state's new laws regulating the sale of the ingredients used to make meth.

A meth enforcement expert at the University of Wisconsin Law School says fewer labs means fewer children affected by the toxic process of making the drug and reduced risk to police who have to clean up the labs once they bust them.

Mike Scott heads the Center for Problem- Oriented Policing in Madison. He says while fewer drug labs is good news in one respect, it doesn't mean the drug problem has ended.

He says that's because more potent meth is flowing into the U.S. from Mexico and the number of addicts in Wisconsin and elsewhere has remained constant. Scott says the best way to deal with that is to convince Mexico to step up its effort to restrict the sale of pseudoephedrine, anhydrous ammonia and all the other chemicals used to produce meth.

He says controlling the supply of chemicals, whether at the wholesale or retail level is really going to be the most effective way to control meth production and use.

Scott says the other front that really needs attention is treatment, and Burnett County sheriff Dean agrees. He says his county has the drug lab problem largely under control, and what he needs now is more money to expand drug treatment programs for the addicts meth has produced. He believes that the treatment dollar goes a lot farther than the incarceration dollar.

How much money and what kind of treatment has become a hot topic in the current race of Attorney General.

All three opponents of incumbent Peg Lautenschlager have competing plans for cracking down on meth and treating its victims.