In its first major response to crystal meth problem, the Saskatchewan government is proposing short-term detox centres, "safe houses" for youths struggling with substance abuse and a public relations effort to inform people about the highly addictive street drug.

On Wednesday, Health Minister John Nilson released his 30-page strategic plan for dealing with crystal meth, or methamphetamine.

Much of the document consists of background information about the spread of the drug in Saskatchewan and the various programs the province has already implemented.

But the report also contains some stark messages about how serious the problem has become in a short period.

"Many communities are grappling with the side effects of crystal meth use," the report says. "Along with the human cost on addicts and their families, police in those communities report crystal meth use has spawned increases in both poverty and violent crimes and has contributed to increased suicide rates."

The report notes that Saskatoon police reported 58 arrests or seizures of crystal meth in 2003, compared to none in 2000.

It points out the ways the experts believe crystal meth is different, in some ways, from other drugs – it can be manufactured from easy-to-obtain materials, it can induce long-term psychotic symptoms among users and it can be extremely toxic.

Although the Saskatchewan Party has said the government has been slow to respond to the crystal meth threat, the government says it has had concerns about the trafficking of the drug since 1998.

What isn't being proposed is any major increase in government spending to fight the problem.