Change Needed In Fight Against Meth
> 1/23/2006 8:54:35 AM

It is time that law enforcement officials and government agencies begin to revisit their strategies in the ever growing battle against the new "it" drug.  The New York Times, reporting from Des Moines, has found that laws recently established in Iowa restricting the sale of cold medicines used to make methamphetamine have cut local production of meth, but have done little to stem the tide of addiction. 

The University of Iowa Burn Center, which in 2004 spent $2.8 million treating people whose skin had been scorched off by the toxic chemicals used to make methamphetamine at home, says it now sees hardly any cases of that sort. Drug treatment centers, on the other hand, say they are treating just as many or more methamphetamine addicts.

And although child welfare officials say they are removing fewer children from homes where parents are cooking the drug, the number of children being removed from homes where parents are using it has more than made up the difference.

The problem, in the words of local law enforcement officials, is "Mexican ice."  This new import comes in the form of crystal methamphetamine, a far purer form of the drug that was being produced in home grown laboratories.

Any elementary economist could have seen this situation coming from miles off.  By legislating the sale of cold medications, law makers have made it more difficult to efficiently produce methamphetamine and have helped cut down on third party injuries from chemical burns and lab explosions and fires.  (They've also managed to annoy a number of folks, as this blogger makes clear.) What they haven't cut however, is the demand for the drug. 

"The Mexican drug cartels were right there to feed that demand," said Tom Cunningham, the drug task force coordinator for the district attorneys council for Oklahoma, the first state to put pseudoephedrine behind pharmacy counters, in 2004. "They have always supplied marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. When we took away the local meth lab, they simply added methamphetamine to the truck."

Efforts to curb meth use and meth production will continue to be a waste until we as individuals and as a society begin to address the underlying issues involved with meth dependence. 

As Iowa law makers are finding out, dealing with the other end of the problem is no easy task:
"My fear is, when I ask what they think we should do, they'll say 'I don't know,' " [State Representative Clel Baudler, a former state trooper who now heads the public safety committee for the Iowa General Assembly,] said in an interview afterward. "We've increased penalties, we've increased prison time, we're still not getting in front of it."

Our representatives at the local, state and national levels need to be creative here.  Programs like D.A.R.E. have been alternately praised and lambasted, but they can serve as a jumping off point for further pushes toward drug education.  Religious and community centers also have their part to play.  As we've said before on this blog, meth and meth addiction are and will continue to be everyone's problem, and it will take a more unified effort to stop it.

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