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Tribal leaders unveil new 'meth toolkit'

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The use of highly addictive methamphetamine is endangering tribal cultures across the nation, leaders with the National Congress of American Indians said June 11, unveiling a new ''meth toolkit'' to help communities battle what they called a looming crisis.

''Meth is a lot different than marijuana and alcoholism, which is more long term,'' NCAI President Joe Garcia said during a news conference in Anchorage. ''With meth, the effects are almost immediate.''

American Indians have been especially wracked by the drug, with an abuse rate of 1.7 percent, almost three times the rate for whites, according to NCAI statistics. On some reservations, addiction rates are closer to 30 percent.

''Meth threatens to eradicate an entire generation,'' said Carl Artman, assistant secretary of the BIA. ''This is something we cannot waste a lot of time on.''

The multimedia toolkit - packaged in a large colorful box - is the product of a joint effort between tribal leaders, BIA and NCAI, one of the nation's oldest organizations serving indigenous groups, including Alaska Natives.

Inside the box are information sheets and CDs detailing the devastating effects of meth on health and families, and the damage to the environment from dumping toxic chemicals used to make the drug. There are stickers for children and a poster showing photos of a female addict's deteriorating face over a 10-year span.

The kit, developed in consultation with Montana State University, contains a wealth of information invaluable to schools, courts, law enforcement and health communities, officials said. The CDs can be edited to customize to a community's needs, said Heather Dawn Thompson, NCAI's director of governmental affairs.

The kits will cost about $130 to cover the cost of production and can be purchased through the NCAI. Officials said they hope states will step in with funding.