Methamphetamine is the worst drug ever to appear in America, and officials need to work to eradicate the "poor man's cocaine."

The above statement made by Barry McCaffrey Monday in Salt Lake City shows how dangerous the drug is. McCaffrey is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.He is to be commended for doing more than just talking about the dangers of methamphetamine. While he and Sen. Orrin Hatch met with Utah law enforcement officers, McCaffrey announced the state has received a $600,000 grant to fight proliferation of the drug.

The state needs to use that grant and other resources to wage a relentless battle to defeat this heinous intruder that has made major inroads into many Utah communities. Its use has grown by almost 2,500 percent in the past seven years.

Manufacturing the deadly and mind-altering drug is simple to do. Echoing McCaffrey, some law enforcement officials are calling methamphetamine - also known as "meth," "crank," "ice," "speed" and "crystal" - the biggest threat to public safety in Utah.

The drug, which is to the `90s what crack cocaine was to the `80s, can be made with common cold medication containing ephedrine, crystal iodine and other chemicals. Setting up household laboratories to produce it is easy. The number of these illegal undertakings has been increasing dramatically. In 1991, 12 meth labs were seized in Salt Lake City. That number increased to 130 last year. At the end of 1997, statistics showed that Utah trailed only California, Missouri and Texas in meth production.

Methamphetamine is a recipe for violence. Extreme paranoia is one of the side effects, which include going days without sleep. Confrontations with people under the influence of the drug may be fatal as law enforcement officers sometimes have to shoot the user to protect themselves and others. The drug causes the heart to "short circuit." What one person tolerates may be fatal for another, and there's no such thing as a safe dose of methamphetamine.

If there is any good news to that bad news it is that, because federal drug officials have pegged the Wasatch Front and surrounding areas as one of the top places in the nation for trafficking illicit drugs, Utah will receive federal funds to help to combat the problem - much like the $600,000 grant announced by McCaffrey.

Those funds and more are needed. As drug trafficking increases, so must the ways to combat it. Federal, state and local agencies are doing a good job of cooperating with one another. That cooperation needs to be supported in order to halt and then end the methamphetamine scourge.