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The second National Conference of Methamphetamine, HIV and Hepatitis has drawn scientists, politicians, teachers and front-line workers from across the country to Utah this week to discuss a new era in meth treatment and prevention.

The opening address Thursday included remarks from Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who summarized the state of meth in Utah and beyond with alarming figures of growth - meth-related emergency room visits have more than doubled since 1995 and there are five times as many people in treatment for meth today as 1992. The mayor also congratulated Utah's Harm Reduction Project director, Luciano Colonna, calling his organization's meth policy "sensible and effective."

"We are making significant progress and improving the lives of people in communities across our nation," Anderson said.

Among the variety of presentations on the opening day of the three-day conference - aimed at raising awareness and promoting discussion about methamphetamine and the consequences involving its use - included a presentation of new data released by the Bureau of Forensic Toxicology on methamphetamine deaths in Utah during a 10-year period.

In addition to information about meth-related death, bureau director Gambrelli Layco shared figures that show how Utah's affliction with meth has soared since the mid-1990s - strongly surpassing national averages. The number of Utahns seeking treatment for meth has skyrocketed from 16 per 100,000 people in 1993 to 186 per 100,000 in 2003, said Gambrelli, reciting data from the state's Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Using data from the office of the medical examiner, Gambrelli's department counted 527 meth-involved deaths in Utah between 1995 and 2005. Of those deaths, 85 percent occurred along the Wasatch Front, 63 percent included the use of other drugs - mainly cocaine, heroin and alcohol - in a range of age from the unborn to 63 years old, Gambrelli reported.

Colonna said scientists, doctors and clinical workers see methamphetamine as a treatable, preventable issue.

Topics that also planned to be addressed at the conference include the success and challenges of needle-exchange programs and meth use by gay men, women and ethnic groups.

Conference topics today and Saturday will focus on hepatitis, meth and children, policy-making and scientific research.