Portland, OR — Speed. Meth. Glass. On the street, methamphetamine has many names. What started as a fad among West Coast motorcycle gangs in the 1970s has spread across the United States. The drug is now more potent, and more destructive, than at any time in the past decade. To explore this issue that has had a devastating effect on many Oregonians’ lives, Oregon Public Broadcasting and The Oregonian have teamed up to produce a documentary for the PBS FRONTLINE series that examines the meth crisis in and beyond Oregon. OPB will expand upon this work with a series of programs on OPB TV, OPB Radio and OPB.org that track the impact of meth on individuals, families and communities, and what is being done to combat the problem.

“This is a problem that started here and has spread across the nation,” said Steve Bass, president and CEO of OPB. “The bad news is that Oregon has been dealing with this epidemic for a long time. The good news is, that because of our experience, we have a lot of knowledge about the problem. FRONTLINE provided us with the opportunity to produce an important program to share with our local audience and the entire nation. It takes stock of where we are in this crisis, what we’ve learned and how we’re making headway,” said Bass. “We’ll also serve our local audience by using all our resources — television, radio and the Web — as a catalyst to find solutions to this serious problem.”

The FRONTLINE documentary was inspired by a series of articles by award-winning Oregonian reporter Steve Suo. Suo and a number of Oregonians contribute to the FRONTLINE documentary, “The Meth Epidemic,” airing Tuesday, February 14 at 9pm nationally on PBS stations. Immediately following at 10pm, OPB’s Colin Fogarty will host METH: THE OREGON FRONT, a roundtable discussion about Oregon’s meth crisis. (FRONTLINE rebroadcasts on Thursday, February 16 at 3am and 9pm and METH: THE OREGON FRONT at 4am and 10pm.)

FRONTLINE: The Meth Epidemic
Twenty years ago, methamphetamine abuse started in the Western United States, but began spreading rapidly into the Midwest. Now the drug has reached the East Coast. “Meth has made a steady march across the United States,” said The Oregonian’s Steve Suo. “Right now you have Mexican methamphetamine flooding in through Atlanta, and from there [it] fans out both south and north.” The discovery of meth labs in states from Maine to Florida foreshadows a new crisis on the East Coast: “They can expect to see increased car theft, increased identity theft, … domestic violence, child neglect, drug overdoses and just a lot of mayhem,” said Suo. Indeed, statistics show that meth can trigger a surge in other crimes: In Oregon, a staggering 85 percent of property crime, as well as a majority of muggings, car thefts and identity thefts, have been linked to the drug.

The number of meth addicts is skyrocketing: With 1.5 million addicts in the U.S. alone and millions more around the world, the United Nations calls meth the most abused hard drug on earth. This program investigates America’s addiction to meth and exposes the inherent conflict between the illegal drug trade and the legitimate three-billion-dollar cold remedy business.

Following FRONTLINE at 10pm, OPB’s Colin Fogarty will host METH: THE OREGON FRONT, a roundtable discussion about Oregon’s meth crisis. Some of the Oregonians interviewed by FRONTLINE, as well as other experts, will be in OPB’s studio to explore why meth is such a problem in Oregon and learn what Oregon leaders are doing to find solutions. Participants in the discussion include Steve Suo from The Oregonian, Rob Bovett of the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association (Newport), Bret King of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office and Jay Wurscher, State Alcohol and Drug Services coordinator. Support for this broadcast comes from the Ford Family Foundation, the Northwest Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and The Cane Creek Family Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation.

OPB Radio to Air Meth Series
Four radio commentaries from people in Oregon whose lives have been affected by meth in distinct ways will air February 6-9 on MORNING EDITION (3-9am) and OREGON CONSIDERED (4:30pm). In addition, OPB’s Christy George will host a special OREGON TERRITORY on February 10 at 4:30pm devoted entirely to Oregon’s meth crisis.

OPB Web Site and Online Forum
Each panelist from METH: THE OREGON FRONT will present an essay on the OPB Web site introducing themselves and their perspective on meth as it relates to them both professionally and personally. Additionally, visitors to the OPB Web site (opb.org/meth) can submit questions and comments that will be considered for discussion on METH: THE OREGON FRONT.

The Web site will also feature material from OPB Radio and TV programs and provide additional resources about meth.

“The Meth Epidemic” is a FRONTLINE co-production with Oregon Public Broadcasting in association with The Oregonian. The producer, director and writer is Carl Byker, whose work includes THE NEW HEROES and THE GREAT WAR for PBS. The executive producer for OPB is David Davis. The executive in charge for OPB is Jack Galmiche. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. The executive producer for FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network of community-supported learning resources including OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.