/ Modified feb 3, 2011 3:57 p.m.

The Math on Meth

Local agency reports significant drop in referrals, but some people are still struggling with addiction

It seems that everyone was talking about methamphetamine a few years ago, but the discussion has since subsided significantly. The drug's use has also decreased notably, officials say, but users and many of their therapists insist the battle with meth is far from over.

La Frontera Center in Tucson is a non-profit behavioral health agency that offers multiple services in the community, including a 16-week intensive program that focuses on meth users. Last year, the number of clients in this program was down by more than a third.

"It appears that people are using it less just looking at our referral numbers," says Andrea Flores, Clinical Supervisor at La Frontera. "In 2006 we had a little over 1,000 referrals and in 2010 we had about 300, so our referrals have significantly dropped."

But residents like Christopher Garland and his wife, Dina, have tried the drug and gotten hooked. Christopher sought treatment at La Frontera and Dina is seeking assistance elsewhere. They hope to remain clean and begin new chapters in their lives after dramatic personal and financial losses.

"It took away my health; I used to be in shape and it took away that, it took away my my job, it took my kids away, pretty much everything," says Christopher Garland.

And while the Garlands are trying to do something about their addictions, experts are concerned about other substances in our society.

"It appears that there’s other drugs coming into play now and a lot of the young people are turning to those drugs," says Fred Ortega, a recovery facilitator at La Frontera.

“At the same time we’ve seen numbers for heroin and prescription pain killers increase, so that may have something to do with it," adds Flores.

Flores says people have to reach a point where they want to change their lives, and Christopher Garland agrees. He's been clean for more than a year now.

"I’m not tired, I don’t look all ate up, my health is a lot of better," he says. "I like getting up in the morning."

We take a look at the meth situation after the huge national epidemic a few years ago. (VIDEO: AZPM)

Some video in this story is courtesy of FRONTLINE PBS while "before and after" photos of meth addicts are used with permission from the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Portland, Oregon.

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