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Methamphetamine News

On June 25, 2009, the Vancouver Sun ("Canada Primary Source of Ecstasy in Drug Trade") reported that this year's "United Nations report on the world drug trade reiterates what [British Columbian] police forces have been saying for a couple of years now: Canada has become a global producer of 'party' drugs, especially ecstasy. The article states that "Canada has grown to be the most important producer of MDMA for North America" and also plays a major role in supplying the drug to Japan and Australia. Additionally, the UN found that Canada's participation in the global amphetamine trade was on the rise. As the Sun states, "Export of illegal amphetamines produced in Canada, the report claims, has grown to 20 per cent of the country's output in 2007 from only five per cent in 2006."

The article claims that the report's findings are not "particularly new information to local police forces and academics." However, some "academics were skeptical of the report's pedigree, considering it to be ideologically driven by hard-line U.S. drug policy. They note that "the U.S. accounted for more than 80 per cent of the methamphetamine labs reported worldwide in 2007 -- almost 6,000 of them. Canada reported only 17." According to the report, the issue revolves less around the sheer number of Canadian drug labs than it does around those labs' sizes. The Sun quotes the reports assertion that "The number of [methamphetamine] laboratories reported by Mexico and Canada remains comparatively small, although the size of the laboratories may on average be larger." In the words of Canadian criminologist Neil Boyd, "There's a suggestion [in the report] that trafficking [in these drugs] has increased since 2003, [...] which is probably true. But if you read the whole thing, Canada is just a small part in a global market."

The demand for meth and prohibition of its ingredients is re-shaping the global drug trafficking map. According to the Los Angeles Times October 13, 2008 article, ("Latin America: Argentina a New Hub for Meth Traffickers") "The execution-style slayings have sent shock waves across Argentina, which has largely been spared the drug violence seen in Colombia and Peru, the world's top cocaine producers. These killings, authorities say, were related to a more prosaic product: ephedrine, the synthetic stimulant found in cough and cold remedies. Ephedrine is also used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, the highly addictive drug long a scourge in the United States. Officials suspect that the three men were involved with a relatively new smuggling route called the 'ephedrine highway,' the triangulated transport of ephedrine from Asia to Argentina to Mexico, ultimately destined for the booming U.S. meth market."

The article states, "Mexican traffickers have become the main suppliers of methamphetamine to the United States. But a crackdown in Mexico has squeezed supplies of ephedrine from Asia, leading the gangs to seek their raw material in Argentina, a nation with a robust pharmaceutical industry, relatively few controls and a reputation for corrupt cops and customs inspectors. The Mexican-Argentine relationship has proved an expedient marriage: abundant product, a compliant host nation and an efficient trafficking network. But the brutal killings have exposed the perils of courting Mexican drug rings. Once confined largely to their homeland and U.S. border states, Mexican criminal gangs have vaulted over international frontiers and formed far-flung alliances."

The article adds, "Methamphetamine is a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States, though its use is believed to have leveled off since the 1990s. U.S. authorities began to notice last year that street prices were soaring for methamphetamine, acting U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart said at a conference in July in Istanbul, Turkey. Authorities attribute the price increase to heightened enforcement pressures south of the Rio Grande. The lure of drug profits had for years spurred large-scale importation of ephedrine and related products to Mexico, mostly from Asia. At Washington's urging, Mexico last year moved to ban most ephedrine imports and moved aggressively against meth labs. As a result, desperate Mexican traffickers turned to Argentina, according to the DEA. Argentina, like Mexico, is not a manufacturer of ephedrine. But the country's pharmaceutical sector is a major importer, buying mostly from China and India. Imports of ephedrine to Argentina recently began to soar -- from 2.9 tons in 2004 to 19.1 tons in 2007, according to government figures."

Rumors and stories about flavored methamphetamine have been swirling around the nation for months. An investigative journalist in Kansas may have debunked this myth. The Emporia Gazette reported on May 18, 2007 ("Drug Rumors Spur National Alert") that "Rumors circulating nationwide about flavored methamphetamines have not yet been confirmed by lab tests. Until they know with certainty, however, law enforcement, school officials and anti-drug groups across the country are taking it seriously. The Carson City, Nev., Sheriff's Office is credited with the initial seizure of flavored meth known as 'strawberry quick.' Sgt. Darrin Sloan, who leads the Special Enforcement Team in Carson City, said that the new meth came to light during a buy set up with an informant who had worked with sheriff's officers on about 10 cases. The informant said that he could buy what he called 'pink meth' from one of the suspects the SET was investigating. 'He purchased it. He brought it back to us and said the guy called it 'strawberry meth,'' Sloan said in an interview Wednesday night. 'When I looked at it, I'd never seen anything like it. I don't know how they did it.' Sloan said the pink-colored meth was alleged to have come from Sacramento. 'It's actually been the only case here,' he said. The crime laboratory has not yet confirmed the presence of flavoring in the seized meth. The lab will have the report ready when the case goes to trial. 'They have a machine they can put it in and they can break it all down,' he said. Sloan said the 'strawberry quick' did not have the scent of strawberry. 'To me, it just smelled like meth. ... It's got to be bad, no matter what they put in it,' he said."

The Gazette reported that "The Carson City arrest, followed up by a warning from the Nevada Department of Public Safety, prompted some school officials in Nevada to alert parents to flavored meth. That warning eventually manifested into an e-mail alert that has been circulating across the country. The e-mail shows a flyer used by the Lander County School District in Battle Mountain, Nev. Lander County Superintendent Curtis Jordan said that state law enforcement officials had sent out a warning about the new twist on an old drug. The district sent flyers home with children to alert their parents; teachers also talked with students about the new form of an old drug. 'Basically, as I understand it, what they're doing is mixing ( flavored drink powder ) with the meth and giving it to kids,' Jordan said. 'We have not had anybody actually taking it. I've heard a rumor there was somebody offered it in the district, but it was just a rumor, no substantiation on that.' Jordan said that receiving a warning from law enforcement compelled the district to disseminate the information. 'We take anything like that very seriously,' Jordan said. 'It's better to be warned against something that might not be a problem ... than to get a problem and explain why we didn't warn about it. It's something I think people need to be aware of and watch out for.' National news reports also have alleged an incident involving flavored meth in Arkansas. An official with the Arkansas Crime Laboratory clarified the information in a telephone interview this week. Chris Harrison, chief illicit laboratory chemist, said that law enforcement had raided a meth lab and found packages of strawberry-flavored drink powder in the trash, along with remnants of meth ingredients. Meth from the raid has not yet come through his laboratory, so there is no tangible evidence to support the claim. 'What we're telling everybody is that this is not a problem in our area yet,' Harrison said. 'It has not been seen enough to really be considered any kind of trend. We just have some anecdotal evidence that it might be coming into Arkansas.'"

The Gazette noted that "Harrison said that rocks of colored methamphetamine hydrochloride -- meth's full name -- are not unusual. Coloring meth is one way to try to disguise it, especially when attempts are being made to slip it into a prison setting. Additionally, coloration is a bit of a marketing tool. Whether a product is legal or illegal, he said, sellers want to find a way to make their products stand out from the others and thereby increase sales. 'Drug dealers have consistently marketed their drugs any way they can, using flavorings and colors, different kinds of candies, ever since they've been selling drugs,' Harrison said. 'People think they're getting something new and they'll maybe be more likely to buy it from you rather than someone else.' Harrison said the lab has been doing surveys regularly to check for the presence of flavored meth. 'Nobody's seeing it,' he said. 'We've had a couple of colored drugs but nothing that really seems to be flavored.' Meth may be colored with food coloring and if it's purple, he said, it may have been colored by a pH imbalance from improper 'cooking.'"

Finally, the Gazette's reporter found, "Flavored meth apparently has not yet come to Kansas, though sessions on the topic have been conducted at law enforcement seminars in the state. 'No, we haven't seen anything in Kansas,' said Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. 'It's addictive enough and I don't know that they need to sugar coat it, pardon the expression, to get customers once people try it.' Loretta Wyrick, assistant coordinator for the state's Methamphetamine Prevention Project, concurred. 'There are no verified reports from law enforcement labs,' Wyrick said."

Controversial baseball star Barry Bonds is reported to have tested positive for amphetamines during the 2006 season. The New York Daily News reported on Jan. 11, 2007 ("Failure Leaves A Testy Barry,") that "Barry Bonds, already under investigation for lying under oath about his steroid use, failed a test under Major League Baseball's amphetamine policy last season and then initially blamed it on a teammate, the Daily News has learned. Under the policy, which went into effect only last season, players are not publicly identified for a first positive test. But according to several sources, when first informed by the MLB Players Association of the positive test, Bonds attributed it to a substance he had taken from the locker of teammate Mark Sweeney. Sources did not identify the drug in question but characterized it as a serious stimulant. When asked last night whether Bonds had an explanation for why he failed the test or if he wanted to issue a denial, Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, said, 'I have no comment on that.'"

According to the Daily News, "Bonds, who has long defended himself against steroid accusations by saying he "never failed a drug test," did not appeal his positive test, but was immediately subject to an additional six drug tests by MLB over the next six months. Sweeney declined comment, but his agent, Barry Axelrod, told The News, 'Mark was made aware of the fact that his name had been brought up, but he did not give Barry Bonds anything and there was nothing he could have given Barry Bonds.' Bonds was not punished for his transgression, but instead was referred to treatment and counseling. While amphetamines are considered performance-enhancing drugs, they are treated differently than steroids under baseball's drug policy. Had Bonds failed a steroid test, he would have been suspended for 50 games, but under baseball's amphetamine policy no one is publicly identified or suspended until a second positive, which would result in a 25-game suspension. A player is suspended for 80 games for a third positive. The policy covers a range of stimulants, including the ubiquitous 'greenies,' or Dexedrine. Benzedrine, ephedrine and the stimulants Ritalin and Adderall, which are used to treat attention-deficit disorder, are among the substances on the policy."

The Daily News noted that "Bonds has been in the doping spotlight since September 2003, when federal agents raided the BALCO lab and the home of Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson. Bonds testified before a grand jury in the steroid-trafficking case that he had taken substances identified by the government as steroids, but that he believed they were legal supplements. A Daily News reporter overheard part of his testimony that day admitting he had unknowingly used steroids, and a year later the San Francisco Chronicle published extended excerpts from the grand jury transcripts. The leaks about Bonds' steroid use were not sufficient evidence to allow MLB to test Bonds for cause, but the failed amphetamine test is. BALCO founder Victor Conte, Anderson and three other men served prison sentences for their parts in the trafficking ring, and Bonds has been under investigation for perjury and tax evasion for more than two years. Anderson is in prison on a contempt charge for refusing to testify against his longtime friend. Long before steroids took hold in clubhouses in the early 1990s, amphetamines were the performance-enhancer of choice in baseball. Even when baseball first adopted a steroids policy in 2003, amphetamines were not specifically banned or tested for, although many are illegal without a prescription."

A growing number of authorities around the US are becoming aware that Mexican methamphetamine production has been increasing dramatically in the past few years since states and the federal government have been cracking down on domestic US production. The Los Angeles Times reported on Nov. 26, 2006 ("US Crackdown Sends Meth Labs South Of Border") that "Methamphetamine production has surged south of the border, from Baja California ranches to the highlands of Michoacan to the industrial parks here in Mexico's second largest city, where authorities in January busted the largest laboratory ever discovered in the Americas. The fortress-like compound ringed by high brick walls housed 11 custom-designed pressure cookers that could produce 400 pounds of the drug per day. It dwarfed anything ever found in California, where the standard cooking tool is a 23-quart beaker and a 20-pound batch is considered a good production day. 'It was the mother lode of mother lodes,' a U.S. law enforcement official said. The boom in Mexican methamphetamine production stems from successful efforts in the U.S. to control the sale of chemicals used to produce the drug, including the cold medicine pseudoephedrine. Drug traffickers, some of them ex-convicts and fugitives from the United States, including a former chemistry professor from Idaho arrested last month, authorities say, have resettled in Mexico because of the easy access to pseudoephedrine and other chemicals. The largest share of the chemicals is believed to be shipped to Mexico from factories in China and India and routed through Hong Kong. China has emerged as the top concern for U.S. authorities. Like traffic in heroin and cocaine, the methamphetamine economy has become a global phenomenon. So too is the battle to control what most U.S. law enforcement authorities consider the country's greatest drug threat."

According to the Times, "The rural fringes of California metropolitan areas, including the Inland Empire, which once were centers of methamphetamine production, remain important distribution hubs. But the number of 'superlab' discoveries in California has dropped from 125 in 2003 to 12 through mid-October this year, according to the DEA. Nationwide, the numbers have dropped from 130 to 19 during the same period. Superlabs are operations that can produce more than 10 pounds of methamphetamine per cooking cycle. Authorities now estimate that 80% of the methamphetamine on U.S. streets is controlled by Mexican drug traffickers, with most of the supply smuggled in from Mexico. Methamphetamine seizures at the U.S.-Mexico border jumped 50% from 2003 through 2005, from 4,030 to 6,063 pounds. Mapping the methamphetamine production network is difficult in a country of remote ranchlands and under-patrolled metropolitan areas. Few law enforcement authorities are trained to recognize the signs of a drug lab, including the fumes and pollutants that pose significant environmental hazards. Nonetheless, the number of labs discovered by Mexican authorities nearly tripled from 2002 to 2005, from 13 to 37, and methamphetamine seizures more than doubled, to 2,169 pounds, during the same period. U.S. authorities believe the numbers are a fraction of actual activity, as signs of an extensive production infrastructure have surfaced in the last year or so. Among those signs: Mexico's importation of cold medicines jumped suddenly in recent years, from 92,000 tons in 2002 to 150,000 tons in 2005. Though recently imposed restrictions have cut legal imports by about half this year, U.S. authorities believe significant amounts are still being smuggled through corruption-ridden Mexican ports."

The Times noted that "In Mexico, meanwhile, drug lab discoveries have spanned the country. In Mexicali, several labs have erupted in flames. In Michoacan, authorities have discovered large production operations and believe lab activity is rife in the state's rural areas. Producers also have flooded the Mexican domestic market with the drug, creating an epidemic of methamphetamine addiction and drug-related crime in many cities. 'It's a grave public health problem of enormous dimensions,' said Victor Clark Alfaro, a border expert and director of the Binational Center for Human Rights in Tijuana. Guadalajara, capital of the western state of Jalisco, has emerged as a production hub for methamphetamine, authorities say. Lab activity is easily camouflaged in the metropolitan area of 4 million people, which encompasses isolated ranchlands, industrial areas and densely packed urban neighborhoods where exhaust and sewer smells mask the fumes of superlabs."

The National Association of Counties (NACO) released the fifth in its series of surveys on methamphetamine use in the US. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on July 19, 2006 ("Study – Meth Still Country's No. 1 Drug Problem") that "Meth abuse continues to fuel an increase in crimes like robbery and assault, straining the workload of local police forces despite a drop in the number of meth lab seizures, according to a survey Tuesday. Nearly half of county law enforcement officials consider methamphetamine their primary drug problem, more than cocaine, marijuana and heroin combined, the survey of the National Association of Counties found."

According to the Sun-Times, "The survey of 500 county law enforcement officials in 44 states showed that about half reported a decrease in the number of meth lab busts as a result of laws that restrict the sale of cold medicines with precursor ingredients used in the manufacture of meth. That's consistent with federal figures released last month showing a 30 percent drop in the number of labs seized nationwide. But county officials said supply of the drug remains high from superlabs in California and Mexico."

Many are skeptical of the NACO claims. According to Maia Szalavitz of the George Mason University-based organization Stats (Is Meth America's No. 1 Drug Problem?), " Dozens of headlines around the country announced that meth is 'still [the] No. 1 problem drug,' in the country, based on a survey of county law enforcement officials across 44 states. But how reliable was the primary data? What were law enforcement officials basing their responses on? These questions have particular relevance given that treatment centers and surveys of drug use in the population do not find meth to be the biggest drug problem. Only seven percent of treatment admissions are related to methamphetamine, for example, while cocaine admissions account for double that and heroin and related drugs make up nearly 18 percent. Alcohol accounts for 40 percent."

Szalavitz continues: " Also, how was it that a survey could find that half of county law enforcement officials believe meth to be a larger problem (more than the amount reporting cocaine, heroin and marijuana as their biggest problem combined) when many of the country's population centers (New York, for example), report than none of the people they arrest test positive for the drug. Unfortunately, most news organizations didn't find these questions interesting – nor did they note that the survey was a lobbying document, sponsored by the group in aid of its efforts to get more funding for methamphetamine anti-drug task forces. The Associated Press account, which many news organizations, including the New York Times published, didn’t mention that both liberal and conservative groups have opposed further funding for such task forces due to poor oversight and efficacy, which has led to numerous debacles like one in Tulia, Texas. There, a corrupt agent's false claims resulted in the arrest of some 10 percent of the African-American population."

Szalavitz noted that "Meth is undoubtedly the number one problem in many rural areas and it clearly is more prevalent in the West than the East. But in order to drive national crime statistics the way crack cocaine did, it would need to pick up more numbers than the rural areas alone can provide and the trends just don't seem to point in the direction of its doing so (for example, the youth surveys which show declining use)."

The Sentencing Project has released a report which successfully deflates the hype surrounding methamphetamine use. The publication, "The Next Big Thing? Methamphetamine In The United States," "examines the development of methamphetamine as the 'next big thing' in drug threats by analyzing drug use rates through a series of different measures, investigating the role of the media in perpetuating the 'epidemic' language, and assessing the state-of-the-art in methamphetamine treatment options."

As the author says in the introduction, "The findings of this report refute the image of methamphetamine use in the United States as popularly conveyed by both the media as well as many government officials. Mischaracterizing the impact of methamphetamine by exaggerating its prevalence and consequences while downplaying its receptivity to treatment succeeds neither as a tool of prevention nor a vehicle of education. To the contrary, this combination of rhetoric and misinformation about the state of methamphetamine abuse is costly and threatening to the national drug abuse response because it results in a misallocation of resources. We urge vigilance in tempering our national response to methamphetamine, keeping the focus local and providing federal funding to augment evidence-based treatment protocols that have been demonstrated successful in a number of jurisdictions."

Key findings from the report are summarized below. A copy of the report is available from the Sentencing Project as well as from the CSDP Research Archive.

  • Methamphetamine is among the least commonly used drugs
    • Only 0.2% of Americans are regular users of methamphetamine.
    • Four times as many Americans use cocaine on a regular basis and 30 times as many use marijuana.
  • Rates of methamphetamine use have remained stable since 1999
    • The proportion of Americans who use methamphetamine on a monthly basis has hovered in the range of 0.2-0.3% between 1999 and 2004.
  • Rates of methamphetamine use by high school students have declined since 1999
    • The proportion of high school students who had ever used methamphetamine (lifetime prevalence rates) declined by 45% between 1999 and 2005, from 8.2% to 4.5%.
  • Methamphetamine use remains a rare occurrence in most of the United States, but exhibits higher rates of use in selected areas
    • Only 5% of adult male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine, compared with 30% for cocaine and 44% for marijuana.
    • In some west coast cities – Los Angeles, Portland (OR), San Diego, and San Jose – positive responses for methamphetamine use among arrestees registered between 25-37%.
    • In those cities, the overall rate of drug use did not rise between 1998 and 2003, suggesting that the increased use of methamphetamine replaced other drugs, particularly cocaine.
  • Drug treatment has been demonstrated to be effective in combating methamphetamine addiction
    • Studies in 15 states have demonstrated significant effects of treatment in the areas of abstention, reduced arrests, employment, and other measures.
    • Methamphetamine abuse has generally been shown to be as receptive to treatment as other addictive drugs.
  • Misleading media reports of a methamphetamine “epidemic” have hindered the development of a rational policy response to the problem
    • Media accounts are often anecdotal, unsupported by facts, and at odds with existing data.
    • Exaggerated accounts of the prevalence, addictiveness, and consequences of methamphetamine abuse risk not only misinforming the public, but may result in a “boomerang effect” in which use and perception are negatively affected.

The Inspector General of the US Dept. of Justice issued a report on anti-methamphetamine funding channeled through the department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The Associated Press reported on March 24, 2006 ( "IG Criticizes Meth Funding") that "Some states with significant methamphetamine problems have not received their share of federal money because the bulk of a grant program was steered by lawmakers to favored projects in their districts, the Justice Department inspector general said Thursday. More than $179 million in anti-meth money administered by the department -- 84 percent of the grant funds -- has been earmarked, as the practice is known, by members of Congress for programs in their states and districts, inspector general Glenn Fine said. 'As a result of the significant use of congressional earmarks in this program, funding is not always directed to the areas of the country with the most significant meth problem,' Fine said in a report examining the grant program from 1998 to 2005."

According to AP, "One example cited by Fine: Missouri ranked second, behind California, in seizing 11,859 meth labs between 1998 and 2004. But it was tenth in grants received with $3.7 million. Texas and Illinois were 10th and 11th in the number of labs seized, but 23rd and 25th, respectively, in money from the meth initiative. Tennessee is receiving relatively little grant money, the report showed. The state reported 3,631 meth lab seizures between 1998 and 2004, the seventh highest state total, yet received $2,863,181 in grant funds between 1998 and 2005. By comparison, Mississippi reported 1,511 lab seizures and received $5,009,056 in grants. Arkansas was also well ahead of Tennessee in grant money, reporting 3,111 lab seizures and receiving $5,689,476 in grants."

In addition to the funding disparities, the IG report found that money was being earmarked for purposes other than methamphetamine enforcement. According to AP, "Meanwhile, the Sioux City, Iowa, police department was given $10 million for a training program that Fine said was not focused on meth or any drug. Instead, 'classes focused on enhancing general law enforcement skills, such as interviewing and self-defense,' he said. In Vermont, the State Police used more than half of their $2.4 million grant for a task force to combat heroin. In Hawaii, where police seized just 76 meth labs over seven years, a nonprofit group used $8.4 million in money targeted at meth for a several anti-drug programs."

According to the IG's report, "The Meth Initiative grants to Sioux City, Iowa, provide an example of the interaction between the grantee, the COPS Office, and Congress. Every year since FY 1998 Congress has earmarked methamphetamine funds for a law enforcement training center located in Sioux City. We audited the Meth Initiative grants this entity received and found that the curriculum at the training center is not focused on meth or any other drug. At the time of our audit, we noted no classes focusing on hazardous waste disposal, environmental issues, truck searches, children who were exposed to meth lab sites, medical protocols, or meth case law. Rather, classes focused on enhancing general law enforcement skills, such as interviewing and selfdefense. According to the responsible program manager, the COPS Office has questioned some of the training curriculum at the Sioux City site, and an official from the COPS External Affairs Division discussed the matter with the responsible congressional staff member and was informed that the proposed training curriculum, which was general and not focused on meth or drugs, was the type of training that the region needed. Consequently, the COPS Office awarded the Meth Initiative grant for the project."

Amongs its conclusions, the IG noted that "Congressional earmarks have heavily influenced the Meth Initiative since its inception in 1998. However, the significant use of earmarks in this endeavor has not ensured that grant funds are directed to locations with the greatest need. Because the COPS Office has been reactive to the spending specifications of Congress, it has not been in the position to assert full control over the program, including the establishment of program goals and measurements. However, without a more strategic plan for the use of the significant funding available through this program, the COPS Office’s attempts to address the meth crisis likely will continue to yield variable results."

A group of US Senators along with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the US Dept. of Justice are sponsoring a National Town Hall Meeting on Methamphetamine on Monday, Jan. 23, 2006, from 1-4pm Eastern time. The presentations will be webcast via this link. Following is the announcement from Senator Norm Coleman's (R-MN) website: "WEBCAST: WATCH LIVE WEBCAST OF NATIONAL METH TOWN HALL TODAY AT 1:00 EST
"1/23/06 - To address the increasing dangers Methamphetamines exact on our nation’s communities and families, Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) will host a National Town Hall on Methamphetamine Awareness and Prevention Monday, January 23, 2006. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Drug Czar John Walters of the Office of National Drug Control Policy will make opening remarks and during the three panel sessions, the senators will be joined by state and national panelists, including drug enforcement officials, rehabilitative services personnel, and former users of meth who have experienced the devastating and tragic effects of the synthetically-made drug. The event has been assembled as a national forum in which to understand the use and widespread impact of the drug, as well as seek ways to inform the public, deter use, and examine possible legislative initiatives to further combat meth."

The National Association of Counties (NACo) released its 2006 report on methamphetamine use and its impact on county services. This year's report focused on emergency rooms and drug treatment services. NACO's 2005 report focused on law enforcement and child welfare services.

According to USA Today on Jan. 18, 2006 ( "Meth Cases Put Strain On ERs"), "The survey of 200 hospitals run or funded by counties in 39 states and Washington, D.C., shows that 47% said methamphetamine is the top illicit drug involved in emergency room visits. Sixteen percent said marijuana, and 15% said cocaine. 'This is a national problem,' association spokesman Tom Goodman says. 'The costs of methamphetamine are placing a great strain on county governments.' Of the hospitals surveyed, 73% said emergency room cases involving meth have increased over the past five years, and 56% said hospital costs have risen because of the treatment of meth patients."

It must be noted that NACo only surveyed perceptions of the extent of methamphetamine use. According to NACO's "The Meth Epidemic in America II":
"For the most recent surveys, the data collection by telephone was done by Research, Inc. of Washington, D.C. For the emergency room survey, the research firm contacted county public hospital or regional hospital emergency rooms in 48 states. Two hundred responses were received from hospital emergency room officials in 39 states. Seventy nine percent of the hospitals included in NACo's survey were county owned, 47% were county operated and 14% were county contracted. Fifty five percent were partially county funded and 7% had no relationship with their home county.
"For the treatment program survey, county behavioral health directors in 35 states were contacted. These directors are charged with responsibility for the planning and delivery of mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services. They were asked about drug treatment programs in their counties. Two hundred responses were received from behavioral health directors in 26 states and Washington, DC." (p. 3)

Local prosecutors in Missouri are using a section of Missouri law to go after pregnant women who are found to have used methamphetamine. The Springfield News-Leader reported on Dec. 29, 2005 ( "Charge Filed After Baby Born With Meth Traces") that "A Springfield mother faces a charge of child endangerment after she and her newborn baby tested positive for methamphetamine. Greene County Assistant Prosecutor Jill Patterson said she expected to prosecute similar cases as part of a new policy targeting mothers who use illegal drugs shortly before giving birth. Sarah A. Weese, 19, was charged Tuesday with one count of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child, a class C felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. A toxicology report found that Weese had methamphetamine in her system when she gave birth in May to her daughter at St. John's Hospital, according to the probable cause statement filed in the case. When questioned by a Springfield police officer, Weese admitted to smoking about a gram of methamphetamine three days before giving birth. Tests of the baby's excrement sent to a Minnesota lab tested positive for the drug, as well."

According to the News-Leader, "Patterson said the new policy of charging mothers who use drugs close to childbirth is the result of conversations and 'brainstorming' with pediatricians and police. 'It's something I've been aware of for quite some time,' she said. Advice from doctors — who could provide expert testimony about the damage of prenatal drug use — helped establish a focus for prosecution, she said. 'I've determined that how you do that, at least initially, is by prosecuting the ones who test positive at birth.' Although she hasn't ruled out filing charges in cases that involve marijuana or other drugs, Patterson said pediatricians singled out cocaine and methamphetamine as posing the most significant risks to newborns. 'There has to be a pretty clear relationship between the risks (posed by the mother's behavior) and the effects on the child,' she said. '... If you're using meth close to birth, there are very immediate risks.'"

The News-Leader noted that "Patterson said that as part of the new effort, she has been working with police to establish a system that would initiate a police response when a new mother tests positive for drugs — a similar system triggers newborn crisis assessments by the Missouri Department of Social Services' Children's Division. Deborah Scott, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, said the agency does not track the number of children removed from their parents by type of drug — yet. But drugs, especially methamphetamine, are often a factor. 'We track the number of children that are removed from their parents annually due to a drug-related cause,' Scott said Wednesday. '... Of the approximately 11,000 children in the Children's Division's custody, about 29 percent of them had parental drug use as a condition of removal (as of March, 2005).'"

According to new research, a crackdown by state officials on methamphetamine use and production in Iowa has failed to yield a decrease in reports of methamphetamine involvement in child abuse. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported on Dec. 19, 2005 ( "State Meth Crackdown Not Reducing Child Abuse") that "Despite the state's crackdown on methamphetamine labs, a new study says the number of child welfare cases involving parental meth use in southwest Iowa has remained steady over the past two years at about 49 percent. The study was conducted by Carol Gutchewsky, a social work administrator in western Iowa. She looked at ongoing child welfare cases in the Iowa Department of Human Services' Council Bluffs Service Delivery Area, a 16 county area. Gutchewsky said she did the study because many social workers were reporting an increasing number of child abuse cases where meth was involved. According to the study, of 1,469 child abuse cases examined in 2003, 720 involved parental meth use. In 2005, 781 of 1,605 cases involved parental meth use. Both account for about half of the cases handled in that area."

According to the Courier, "Gutchewsky said her study looked only at known meth use, not suspected use. That included parents who were arrested, had positive drug tests or gave birth to babies with meth in their systems. The numbers are somewhat higher than what state officials have reported, partly because the state uses a different measurement. State data on parental meth use includes only two categories: manufacturing/possessing dangerous substances in the presence of a child, and presence of illegal substances in the child's system. Roger Munns, a spokesman for the DHS, said Gutchewsky's numbers don't conflict with what the state has observed in its investigations."

The Courier noted that "'When looked at strictly categorically, the ( state ) abuse findings can minimize the extent of drug involvement,' Gutchewsky said in the study results. 'There's lots of drug activity hidden behind or within all of Iowa's categories of child abuse.' She said she considered cases such as where the mother may abandon her child for days on end to use drugs. Failing to arrange for care of the child would constitute neglect under state standards, but since there would be a drug element, that case was counted in her study. Gutchewsky said her study focuses solely on the most serious cases that require the DHS's continued involvement, whereas the state figures include cases under assessment for child abuse. In some cases, she said meth use has been acknowledged by DHS officials, but there wasn't enough evidence to warrant an abuse finding specific to drug involvement. Steve Scott, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, called it a unique study, saying that it covers areas other agencies don't report. 'She catches what's below the surface," he said. 'I think it's really bad news for Iowa, but it's not surprising news because this just has become a real scourge for families.'"

Several members of Congress have called on the US to organize an international summit on methamphetamine production and trafficking. The Oregonian reported on Dec. 8, 2005 ( "House Lawmakers Demand International Meth Summit") that "A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday called on President Bush to convene an international summit on methamphetamine and the global trade in meth ingredients. The proposed summit would bring together countries that encompass the drug's vast marketplace -- from Asia to the Americas. 'This is a problem that's a worldwide epidemic, and we need to treat it as such,' said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., a co-chair of the House Meth Caucus. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., said the message of a U.S.-sponsored summit would be: 'We're not alone in this. The usage of methamphetamine and abuse of methamphetamine is a problem worldwide, and the production is a worldwide problem,' Baird said. 'So we've got natural potential alliances worldwide.'"

According to the Oregonian, "Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., said there is a much greater chance of cracking down on the international trade in ephedrine and pseudoephedrine with help from countries such as Japan and South Korea. 'A lot of these countries have been drowning in it for a long time,' he said. Souder, a frequent critic of the White House response to meth, added: 'Maybe this isn't ( just ) a local problem in Indiana and Nebraska. Maybe it's an international problem.' Souder said support for an international meeting stems from The Oregonian's coverage of the international pseudoephedrine trade. An investigation by the newspaper in June found that demand for pseudoephedrine by drug traffickers had caused Mexico's imports to soar, in spite of international controls designed to prevent diversion. Last month, Mexico announced it was cutting its pseudoephedrine imports by 40 percent to reduce its surplus."

The Oregonian noted that "In addition to Baird, Souder and Calvert, the letter was signed by Reps. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa; Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., and Rick Larsen, D-Wash."

Note: CSDP Director of Research Doug McVay appeared on Nov. 16, 2005 as a guest on the Culture Shocks radio program hosted by the Rev. Barry Lynn discussing methamphetamines and drug policy. The full one-hour discussion between McVay and Rev. Lynn is available online.

Restrictions on cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine are having an impact on the chemical manufacturers, including layoffs at factories. The Oregonian reported on Oct. 31, 2005 ( "Meth Fight Hits Medicine Makers") that "The world's largest pseudoephedrine factory is eliminating 15 percent of its work force, citing a sharp reduction in demand caused by U.S. sales restrictions on cold medicines that contain the potential methamphetamine ingredient. The move by BASF of Germany is the strongest sign yet of the diminishing role of pseudoephedrine-based cold medicine -- and the rising popularity of phenylephrine, a decongestant that cannot be used by meth cooks."

According to the Oregonian, "BASF primarily blamed 'a significant decline' in orders for pseudoephedrine from the United States, which consumes half the world's exports of pseudoephedrine and its chemical cousin, ephedrine. Driving U.S. consumers away from pseudoephedrine products is legislation enacted by 34 states requiring cold medicines containing the chemical to be kept behind store or pharmacy counters. Those restrictions have reduced sales of pseudoephedrine products, slashed the number of home meth labs found by police, and sparked an explosion in products without pseudoephedrine. Officials at BASF say the cuts will affect 95 of the company's 630 employees at its factory in Minden, Germany. The company employs 82,000 people worldwide. Folker Ruchatz, BASF director of Pharma Solutions and dietary supplements in North America, said tighter regulations and the switch to phenylephrine 'will continue to reduce the demand for pseudoephedrine.' BASF is not alone in feeling the market pressure on pseudoephedrine. A leading Indian manufacturer of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, Krebs Biochemicals and Industries Ltd., has told shareholders that the tighter U.S. regulations have hurt sales and 'affected our production and profitability.'"

The Oregonian noted that "But business is good at Pfizer Inc., which introduced a cold medicine containing phenylephrine earlier this year in anticipation of tighter regulation of pseudoephedrine. Spokesman Jay Kosminsky said sales of the new 'Sudafed PE' have outpaced the traditional version with pseudoephedrine, and Pfizer has told shareholders the brand as a whole is selling better than before the reformulation. As other companies rush to phenylephrine, the world's leading manufacturer of the chemical is expanding. Boehringer Ingelheim of Germany has doubled its phenylephrine capacity and plans to increase it another 50 percent by 2007. The company is installing equipment to manufacture the chemical at its Petersburg, Va., facility. The combined capacity would be enough to completely supplant current U.S. demand for pseudoephedrine."

The Oregonian also noted that "It's unclear whether other countries will follow the U.S. lead, further reducing pseudoephedrine's use internationally and making the chemical harder for Mexican drug cartels to obtain. Mexican cartels supply an estimated 65 percent of meth sold in the United States. Choking off the cartels' international supply of necessary chemicals produced profound shortages of meth twice in the 1990s, The Oregonian revealed last year. Meth use declined as a result. But large-scale Mexican traffickers adapted by purchasing millions of pseudoephedrine pills, first in Canada and then in Mexico, for use in their "superlabs.""

A court ruling has prompted a legislative attempt to further criminalize pregnant women who are also drug-dependent. The Billings Gazette reported on Oct. 3, 2005 ( "Legislators Prepare Bill In Response To Meth Ruling") that "Rep. Elaine Harvey is having a bill drafted to make it clear that a new Wyoming law protecting children from methamphetamine also applies to an unborn child. Last week, a state district judge in Lander dismissed a child endangerment case against a woman whose newborn child tested positive for methamphetamine because the state law did not specifically say it applied to fetuses. Harvey, R-Lovell, was the chief sponsor of the 2004 felony child endangerment law the defendant, Michele Ann Foust, 31, was charged under. 'I thought we were covered. The intent was to protect unborn children but apparently this is a gray area,' Harvey said."

According to the Gazette, "The law carries a penalty of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both for allowing a child to be in a place where meth is 'possessed, stored or ingested.' Harvey said she will take her proposed changes to the law to a meeting of the Governor's Task Force on Drug Endangered Children this week in Cheyenne. Meanwhile, the prosecutor in the Foust case, Ed Newell, said he will also seek legislation to attack the problem, but through existing laws rather than by changing the child endangerment law. 'I don't want to jump into that whole abortion briar patch,' Newell said. 'I have no interest in spawning a lot of pro-choice, pro-life debates.' He suggested amending the law against use of a controlled substance to increase the penalty for a pregnant user. A second step would be to require a mandatory minimum sentence for people who deliver meth to a pregnant woman."

The Gazette noted that "Linda Burt, director of the Wyoming Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said such laws put women in a vulnerable position and discourage them from getting prenatal care or treatment for abuse problems. 'They're not helpful to women and they're not helpful to children,' Burt said. The only bill the Legislative Service Office could find that dealt specifically with prenatal substance abuse was never introduced, said its sponsor, former House Speaker Bruce Hinchey of Casper. Hinchey's bill, prepared for the 1996 budget session, would have required medical professionals to report neonatal substance abuse by the mother. It also authorized the Department of Family Services to take into temporary protective custody a newborn infant that tested positive for illegal drugs. Hinchey said he sponsored the bill because of the number of reported cases of women taking illegal drugs during pregnancy. He never introduced the bill partly because people warned him it would touch off a debate on abortion rights."

The US House of Representative's leading drug war zealot Mark Souder (R-IN) called for the resignation of a top aide to ONDCP Director ('Drug Czar') John Walters. The Oregonian reported on Sept. 29, 2005 ( "US Drug Czar, Aide Face Meth Criticism") that "Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., spoke after a closed-door briefing in which Bush administration officials described their efforts to halt the spread of methamphetamine abuse. Souder, chairman of the House committee that authorizes the activities of Walters' office, called the presentation 'pathetic' and 'an embarrassment.' He said officials seemed more interested in defending the status quo than developing a meaningful national meth strategy. 'If they continue to defend the way they're going,' he said, 'it's time for some of the top people to resign.' Souder said later in an interview that he specifically wanted the resignation of Dave Murray, a Walters adviser, who led the briefing. But Souder also suggested Walters should go, as well. 'Clearly, if he does not lead, we need a change of the drug czar,' Souder said. He added later, 'If Director Walters and anyone else in that office agrees with what was said today, they should resign.'"

According to the Oregonian, "Murray, who was at the news conference, declined to comment extensively afterward. 'We had an interesting discussion roundtable with them,' Murray said. 'I thought it was pretty productive.' Ken Lisaius, a White House spokesman, said the administration "continues to have faith in Director Walters and his effort to continue to address the drug issues that our nation faces. He will continue to work on the part of the federal government and this administration to address those issues.' Souder and others from districts with large meth problems have repeatedly criticized the administration's effort to deal with the illicit drug, but his latest remarks were his strongest attack yet."

The Oregonian noted that "Members of the bipartisan House Methamphetamine Caucus say the White House has failed to turn its meth plan into a workable strategy that includes new policy initiatives or measurable goals. The lawmakers have attacked the administration for proposing budget cuts to local drug task forces this year and have accused Walters' office of downplaying the threat that meth poses. Wednesday's meeting, attended by about 20 House members, featured officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, he Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the State Department. Administration officials outlined success stories in the fight against meth, such as a sharp reduction in the number of 'superlabs' operated by Mexican traffickers in the United States, according to people who attended. The administration officials also discussed promising treatment techniques, and they said cooperation had improved with Hong Kong, Mexico and other countries where drug cartels obtain pseudoephedrine. But participants said the officials did not request any additional help from Congress at a time when meth continues to flow into towns across the country. 'We already are aware of what the administration is doing,' said Rick Larsen, D-Wash., a co-chair of the Meth Caucus. 'We're not convinced it is part of a full, comprehensive strategy with the right amount of resources.' Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., one of the founders of the caucus, said administration officials seemed out of touch with the problems that House members are hearing back home from sheriffs and the children of meth users. 'The official message was, 'We are doing a great deal about methamphetamine right now,' ' Baird said. 'If they're trying to tell us that they have fully grasped the problem and are responding to the problem proportionally to its impact on our communities, then they're either dissembling, or they're clueless,' he said."

The Oregonian reported that "Souder's lack of confidence in the drug czar's office carries repercussions. At the extreme, Souder said, his committee has the authority to write legislation naming who should fill each position in Walters' office. The more likely course, however, is less drastic. Souder said he has been unwilling so far to micromanage the activities of the office, allowing Walters to set priorities internally. But now, Souder said, he is willing to start directing specific action on meth. 'I don't trust the director's office to make the decisions anymore,' Souder said."

Democrats in the US House of Representatives have spoken up against new mandatory minimum sentences for methamphetamine which are included in legislation being pushed by anti-drug zealots in Congress. The Oregonian reported on Sept. 28, 2005 ( "Proposal For Meth Sentences Draws Fire") that "House Democrats on Tuesday sharply criticized a bill designed to curb the availability of methamphetamine in the United States, singling out a provision that would impose tougher prison sentences for trafficking. At a hearing in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, the Democratic lawmakers said incarcerating drug dealers for longer terms has failed to stop drug addiction over the past two decades, while ruining lives in poor communities. 'Whether it's crack or meth, we've got a drug problem in America, and it's not going to be solved with mandatory minimum sentencing,' said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif."

The opposition may prove Quixotic. According to the Oregonian, "The opposition is unlikely to derail House Resolution 3889, which enjoys the support of House Republican leaders and the bipartisan Congressional Meth Caucus. The chairman of the crime subcommittee, Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., is a co-sponsor, and spokesman Ed McDonald said Coble hopes to schedule a vote soon. Still, Tuesday's hearing made clear that any vote in committee or on the floor likely would be far from unanimous. Supporters had hoped to design a meth bill free of controversial elements that would slow its progress. The hitching point in the bill is an expansion of the types of meth cases in which defendants could receive 10- and 20-year mandatory minimum sentences. For example, current law imposes a 10-year sentence for trafficking in 50 grams of meth. Under the bill, possession with intent to sell 5 grams of meth would draw a 10-year term. Five grams is about 50 doses of meth."

The Oregonian reported that "Democrats, who are in the minority in Congress, used the hearing to fire pointed questions about mandatory minimums at sponsors of the bill and an official from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Historically, there has been a racial component to discussions of sentences for drug crimes. African American lawmakers have long criticized the disparate impact on black communities created in the 1980s when Congress enacted longer sentences for small amounts of crack cocaine. Members of the crime panel on Tuesday said that longer prison terms were an equally ineffective way to deal with meth, whose users are overwhelmingly white. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee's top Democrat, said Congress has repeatedly tried the punitive approach with meth and other drugs -- and failed. 'Meanwhile, the epidemic has grown exponentially,' Scott said. Scott, an attorney, reserved his closest cross-examination for Joseph T. Rannazzisi, deputy chief of enforcement operations for the DEA. After a relentless series of questions, Scott concluded, 'You did not reduce the incidence of crack use by having a draconian five-year mandatory-minimum sentence, did you?' 'Putting it that way,' Rannazzisi said, 'I guess not.' Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., said punishment should be balanced by additional money to treat addictions. 'There's no reference in the legislation about treatment,' Delahunt said. 'You've got to attack this on the demand side.' Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., a sponsor of the bill, defended the tougher criminal penalties by saying Congress must send a 'send a strong signal' to drug traffickers. 'We've been sending messages,' Delahunt responded. 'I think there should be now conclusive evidence that just simply enhancing penalties is in no way going to reducing the trafficking in a particular controlled substance.'"

The Oregonian noted that "Most of the bill deals with increased international regulation of companies that buy and sell pseudoephedrine, the main meth ingredient. Little of that language came under attack at the hearing. And an industry association, the Food Marketing Institute, submitted a statement in support of the bill, praising international controls on pseudoephedrine. Waters also made clear that she did not have a problem with precursor control or curtailing meth production in Mexico. 'Come in here and talk to me about (Mexico's president) Vicente Fox and what you're going to do with them and trade if they don't do something about the transporting of stuff across the border from the superlabs in Mexico,' Waters said. 'But just to talk about young people who use this meth to get high going to penitentiaries, that's not doing anything to make me believe it's going to be helpful.'"

Several pieces of federal legislation on methamphetamine moved closer to enactment in September 2005. The Dallas Morning News reported on Sept. 12, 2005 ( "Congress Taking On Meth Epidemic") that "One effort is aimed at controlling the purchase of over-the-counter cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, a main meth ingredient. Last month, a Texas law went into effect that puts those cold medicines behind the counter and requires stores to limit the amount purchased. The congressional measure would do the same nationwide. Other congressional legislation proposed would help address mounting lab costs and set standards for cleanups."

According to the Morning News, "Last year, at least 395 meth labs and dumping sites were cleaned up in Texas at a cost of $825,000, Mr. Payne [Rusty Payne, spokesperson for the DEA] said. Nationally, about $19 million was spent on more than 10,000 meth cleanups. Congress allocates about $20 million annually for cleanups. The Senate bill that cracks down on cold medicine also provides an additional $15 million that could be used for cleanups and training. So far, the DEA has trained 8,600 state and local law enforcement professionals at a cost of at least $37.5 million. The bill also sets aside an additional $5 million to create a rapid response team to remove children found in hazardous labs. The DEA estimates more than 3,000 children were found in labs last year. Another Senate proposal, introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., would allow the Treasury Department's Forfeiture Fund to be used by state and local authorities to clean up meth labs. Private owners would also benefit if they had no prior knowledge of a meth lab on their property."

The Morning News noted that "Drug czar John Walters said his office is backing the legislation to limit the purchase of cold medicine. He also announced plans to launch an anti-meth ad campaign. Attorney General Al Gonzales also spoke of meth's impact and the growing importance of the fight against the drug, and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt announced grants for meth abuse treatment. Larry Naake, executive director of the National Association of Counties, said the White House should take an even tougher stance. 'We really didn't see any new initiatives to support any new legislation,' he said. 'There doesn't appear to be any new funding here.'"

Editor's Note: Partly due to increased interest, the Methamphetamine section of Drug War Facts is being revised. In the blog entry that follows are editorial notes which will shortly be incorporated into the section.

1) How Many Methamphetamine Users Are There?
Recent federal survey data on methamphetamine use estimates that just over 5% of those aged 12 and over in the US have ever tried methamphetamine, and that approximately 0.3% of the population has used methamphetamine in the past month. In comparison, 40.6% were reported to have tried marijuana in their lifetimes and 6.2% of the population were estimated to have tried marijuana in the past month; 14.7% of the population were reported to have ever tried cocaine and 1.0% were past month users; 1.6% of the US population have ever tried heroin and 0.1% were estimated to be past month users; and 4.3% of the US population have ever tried Ecstasy (MDMA) while 0.2% were estimated to be past month users. 1

2) Is Methamphetamine Use On The Increase?
According to the most recent federal National Survey on Drug Use and Health, "The number of new users of stimulants generally increased during the 1990s, but there has been little change since 2000. Incidence of methamphetamine use generally rose between 1992 and 1998. Since then, there have been no statistically significant changes." 2

3) How Big A Problem Is "Home Cooking" Of Methamphetamine?
Though it is difficult to measure illegal activity, some officials estimate that only 20% of domestic consumption of methamphetamine came from the small-scale domestic producers targeted by restrictions on cold and allergy medications and other household materials. 3 , 4

4) How Effective Are Restrictions On Cold And Allergy Medicines?
In states which have passed restrictions on availability of cold and allergy medicines, such as Oklahoma and Arkansas, officials claim that the number of production operations in those states have declined; use, however, remains as high. Law enforcement in those states now report growing availability of a purer, smokable form of methamphetamine known as "ice" thought to be produced by cartels based in Mexico. 5 , 6

5) What Are The Real Dangers Of Methamphetamine?
According to the federal Community Epidemiology Working Group, there are many more deaths related to heroin use in the US annually than related to methamphetamine use, and most meth deaths involve more than one drug. 7 This is in spite of the fact that federal surveys report there are 3 times as many monthly methamphetamine users than monthly heroin users. 8
The Merck Pharmaceutical Manual notes that "Abusers of amphetamine are prone to accidents because the drug produces excitation and grandiosity followed by excess fatigue and sleeplessness. Taken IV [intravenously], amphetamine may lead to serious antisocial behavior and can precipitate a schizophrenic episode." Also, "Continued high doses of methamphetamine produce anxiety reactions during which the person is fearful, tremulous, and concerned about his physical well-being, an amphetamine psychosis in which the person misinterprets others' actions, hallucinates, and becomes unrealistically suspicious; an exhaustion syndrome, involving intense fatigue and need for sleep, after the stimulation phase; and a prolonged depression, during which suicide is possible." 9
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse: "The central nervous system (CNS) actions that result from taking even small amounts of methamphetamine include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, hyperthermia, and euphoria. Other CNS effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hyperthermia and convulsions can result in death." 10

6) Can Methamphetamine Addicts Be Treated Successfully?
Yes. Research by UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Programs and others shows that treatment can be effective for methamphetamine users. Successful treatment requires a significant commitment of time and resources as well as patience. 11 , 12 , 13

7) Has the federal government been asleep at the wheel regarding methamphetamine?
Though the Bush administration is being criticized for its apparent inaction on methamphetamine, 14 the federal government noted the growth in methamphetamine use which did occur during the mid-1990s, as evidenced by a 1995 report from the Centers for Disease Control on increasing methamphetamine abuse 15 ; an interagency task force report issued in January 2000 16 with recommendations for a coordinated national strategy to address methamphetamine production and use; and a US Sentencing Commission Final Report on Methamphetamine issued in November 1999. 17

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2004). Results from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-25, DHHS Publication No. SMA 04-3964). Rockville, MD, p. 189, Table G.2. Also available on the web at, last accessed Aug. 31, 2005.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2004). Results from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-25, DHHS Publication No. SMA 04-3964). Rockville, MD, p. 46. Also available on the web at, last accessed Aug. 31, 2005.
  3. Testimony of Commissioner Michael Campion, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy & Human Resources, June 27, 2005, available at
  4. National Association of Counties, "Former Meth Labs Similar To 'Mini-Superfund' Sites," April 11, 2005
  5. Associated Press, "Stopping Meth Makers Hasn't Stopped Oklahoma's Meth Problems," July 28, 2005, from the web at , last accessed Aug. 30, 2005.
  6. Associated Press, "Arkansas Meth Law Breaking In-State Supply Chain, But Not Imports," Aug. 28, 2005, from the web at , last accessed Aug. 30, 2005.
  7. "Epidemiologic Trends In Drug Abuse, Vol. 1: Proceedings of the Community Epidemiology Work Group, June 2004," Naitonal Institutes of Health, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, May 2005.
  8. 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2004).
  9. "Amphetamine Dependence", The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Section 15.Psychiatric Disorders, Chapter 195.Drug Use and Dependence, Merck & Co. Inc., from the web at last accessed Aug. 30, 2005.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Infofax: Methamphetamine No. 13552 (Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services), from the web at, last accessed Aug. 30, 2005.
  11. Rawson, Richard A., et al., "A multi-site comparison of psychological approaches for the treatment of methamphetamine dependence," Addiction, No. 99, pp. 708-717.
  12. Obert, Jeanne L., et al., "The Matrix Model of Outpatient Stimulant Abuse Treatment: History and Description," Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 32, No. 2, April-June 2000, pp. 157-164.
  13. Methamphetamine Treatment Project at, last accessed Aug. 30, 2005.
  14. Pamela Brogan, "Bush Proposal to Fight Meth Falls Flat," Gannett News Service, Aug. 23, 2005, from the web at, last accessed Aug. 30, 2005.
  15. "Increasing Morbidity and Mortality Associated with Abuse of Methamphetamine -- United States, 1991-1994," Centers for Disease Control, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 44, No. 47, Dec. 1, 1995, pp. 882-886, from the web at, last accessed Aug. 31, 2005.
  16. Federal Methamphetamine Interagency Task Force, "Final Report," Jan. 2000, available
  17. US Sentencing Commission, "Methamphetamine: Final Report," Nov. 1999, available from

A broad group of doctors, scientists, and medical researchers have joined together to warn of exaggeration and hysteria in the media's coverage of methamphetamine. According to an open letter on the JoinTogether website ( "Meth Science Not Stigma: Open Letter to the Media"), "Too often, media and policymakers rely on people who lack any scientific experience or expertise for their information about the effects of prenatal exposure to methamphetamine and about the efficacy of treatment. For example, a NEW YORK TIMES story about methamphetamine labs and children relies on a law enforcement official rather than a medical expert to describe the effects of methamphetamine exposure on children. A police captain is quoted stating: ''Meth makes crack look like child's play, both in terms of what it does to the body and how hard it is to get off." (Fox Butterfield, Home Drug-Making Laboratories Expose Children to Toxic Fallout, Feb 23, 2004 A1)"

The letterwriters indicate that they are "deeply disappointed that American and international media as well as some policy makers continue to use stigmatizing terms and unfounded assumptions that not only lack any scientific basis but also endanger and disenfranchise the children to whom these labels and claims are applied. Similarly, we are concerned that policies based on false assumptions will result in punitive civil and child welfare interventions that are harmful to women, children and families rather than in the ongoing research and improvement and provision of treatment services that are so clearly needed."

A full-text of the letter along with the names of 93 signers in PDF is available here.

Law enforcement officials in Oklahoma say that their state's anti-meth law has given Mexican producers and traffickers control of the area methamphetamine market. The Dallas Morning News reported on July 29, 2005 ( "No Drop Overall In Meth Use") that "A widely copied Oklahoma law that has led to a dramatic drop in small-time methamphetamine labs has done little to curtail meth abuse overall. Users are turning to Mexican-made versions of the highly addictive drug, according to drug agents and others dealing with the problem."

According to the Morning News, "Seizures of 'crystal ice' have risen nearly fivefold since a state law began putting local meth makers out of business. Oklahoma was the first of more than a dozen states to limit over-the-counter sales of cold medicine containing a key ingredient used to make meth. 'Our problem hasn't gone away,' said Oklahoma City Police Lt. Tom Terhune, who investigates drug cases. 'The problem that's gone away is the meth labs.' Oklahoma has seen a 90 percent drop in lab seizures since it put medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind pharmacy counters in April 2004. Congress is now considering similar legislation. In the same 15 months, however, ice seizures rose to 1,875, compared with 384 seizures in the previous 15 months, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation statistics show."

In reality, the dominance of these Mexican gangs is nothing new. The US National Drug Intelligence Center in its National Drug Threat Assessment 2002 at p. 27 reported:
"The threat posed to the United States by methamphetamine lies in its availability and the severe physiological effects associated with its use. The violence and environmental damage associated with the production, distribution, and use of the drug, as well as the involvement of international drug trafficking organizations, further threaten the country and render methamphetamine the third greatest drug threat. Methamphetamine is readily available throughout the western half of the country and is becoming increasingly available in areas of the eastern United States.
"Domestic clandestine methamphetamine production is dominated largely by Mexican criminal groups who also dominate wholesale distribution and share control of retail distribution with local independent distributors and gangs, including outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) and street gangs. Despite law enforcement pressure and the regulation of precursor chemicals, both of which have had a measurable impact on methamphetamine trafficking, Mexican criminal groups continue to manufacture bulk quantities of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine produced in foreign source areas, predominantly Mexico and, to a lesser extent, Canada and Southeast Asia, is available to varying degrees in the United States as well."

Indeed, a federal inter-agency task force in the late 1990s also noted the dominance of Mexican traffickers in the US methamphetamine market, as well as the rise of use which occurred and ended by the late 1990s. According to the Final Report of the Federal Advisory Committee Methamphetamine Interagency Task Force released in 1999:
"Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug, available only through a highly restricted prescription procedure. Medical uses include treatment for narcolepsy, attention deficit disorder, and obesity.
"A number of indicators—including methamphetamine laboratory seizure data and arrest data from the U.S. Department of Justice and data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse's Community Epidemiology Work Group and Multi-Site Assessment of Methamphetamine Use—clearly show that methamphetamine use is spreading throughout the United States. Historically, its use has been concentrated primarily in the West and Southwest. However, since the early 1990s, methamphetamine gradually has been moving into the Midwest and South. The drug is manufactured and distributed by Mexican sources using established drug trafficking routes; domestic clandestine laboratories are another significant source. Now, methamphetamine is used throughout most major metropolitan areas, less in the Northeast.
"Of particular concern, methamphetamine use is emerging in cities and rural settings previously thought to be largely unaffected by illicit drug use and is increasing among populations not previously known to use this drug. Methamphetamine use is a particularly serious problem in some rural areas, many of which lack the infrastructures necessary to deal with a major drug problem. For example, many rural jurisdictions do not have local treatment providers or the expertise to respond to methamphetamine abusers. Similarly, law enforcement officials in rural areas lack the training and financial resources to deal with laboratory cleanup costs associated with the methamphetamine manufacturing in their communities."

Federal and state officials are strongly criticizing several of the current anti-methamphetamine efforts going on at the federal level. The Oregonian reported on July 26, 2005 ( "Hearing Will Raise Heat On Drug Czar") that "When officials at the White House drug czar's office downplayed a recent survey showing that methamphetamine had exploded into a national epidemic, the reaction in Congress was swift and harsh. 'I think this administration is fundamentally out of touch,' said Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., a leader on the meth issue. 'The whole country is screaming,' about meth, added Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., a critic of the drug czar's office. But the drug czar's response didn't surprise Washington insiders, some of whom view the office as structurally incapable of dealing with the nation's meth crisis. And they say its current leadership seems unwilling to try."

Though the tone remains more or less colleagial, the criticism of ONDCP is growing. According to the Oregonian, "But it's clear that Congress is frustrated with the drug czar's office and its leader, John Walters, according to drug-policy experts. Walters has proposed cutting aid to local law enforcement, saying it has not produced results. And he is not fulfilling his role in coordinating drug policy across the federal bureaucracy, they say. 'The whole interagency process that that office is charged with leading has broken down,' said John Carnevale, who led the office's transition team before President Bush took office in 2001. 'I'm personally very disappointed in the performance of that office.'"

The Oregonian noted that "Walters declined requests last week to be interviewed. But spokeswoman Jennifer de Vallance said Walters and his staff are committed to a balanced approach of addressing drug addiction in all its forms. 'We need to be focused not only on marijuana and methamphetamine, but also cocaine and heroin, prescription drugs, which is the second-largest source of drug abuse in this country,' she said. 'You cannot focus on one single drug to the exclusion of others.'"

On the other hand, according to the Oregonian, "Earlier this month, the National Association of Counties revealed that 58 percent of sheriffs polled identified meth as their top drug problem. And the survey showed that meth's reach had extended steadily eastward from its West Coast roots. Local government leaders and members of Congress reacted with alarm. But two of Walters' top deputies -- Dave Murray and former Multnomah County prosecutor John Horton -- declared that meth still did not qualify as an epidemic. 'We can't turn our back on other threats,' Murray told the Associated Press. The House Meth Caucus, a bipartisan group with more than 100 members, responded with a letter to Bush firmly declaring that meth 'is our nation's No. 1 drug threat.' Baird was among the signers, but he said he was so irked that he sent a separate letter to Bush reciting the definition of 'epidemic' and inviting the president to meet with victims of meth-related crime in his district. 'When you've had exponential growth, when you know that it kills people as surely as any disease kills people, well, it is an epidemic,' Baird said in an interview. 'When someone implies it's not, it's as if they don't take it seriously.' Baird attributed the tepid response of the drug czar's office to a combination of factors, including Walters' management style and an 'East Coast bias' that still regards meth as a problem endemic to the West. But other critics said that indifference to the meth problem is rooted partly in the history of the drug czar's office and its longstanding strategy to reduce rates of drug use, not necessarily costs to society."

State officials have also been criticizing the Bush budget for its program cuts and question the administration's commitment to their anti-methamphetamine efforts. The Daily World reported on July 24, 2005 ( "Budget To Cut Funds For Meth Fight") that "The Bush administration's war on drugs is retreating in its battle against methamphetamine, an epidemic confronting law enforcement agencies from California to New York. President Bush has proposed gutting funding for some programs and slashing spending for others, including programs that anti-meth forces deem vital to their efforts. 'If it passes the way it is, it would put us completely out of business,' said Billy Cook, director of the 14th Judicial District Drug Task Force in Tennessee. The state seized 1,259 illegal methamphetamine labs last year, the third highest number of seizures in the country behind Iowa with 1,300 and Missouri with 2,707. Steve Dalton, supervisor of an anti-meth task force in southwest Missouri, called the administration's proposed cuts 'absolutely asinine.' The task force busted 101 meth labs in a seven-county area last year. 'It is the worst drug problem I've seen,' Dalton said of the meth trade, 'and it continues to grow.' The president intends to eliminate a $634 million grant program for state and local police departments and cut anti-drug spending in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas from $226 million to $100 million. He also would reduce spending on a Justice Department methamphetamine initiative from $52.6 million to $20 million, a 60 percent cut. Dalton said federal grants pay the salaries of three full-time officers assigned to bust meth labs. Without the grants, he said, 'We could last for about a year and then we would have to shut our doors.'"

According to the Daily World:
"Bush's budget would:
"Eliminate grants to states under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program, funded at $441 million this year.
"Eliminate grants to states under the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, an organization that has been instrumental in helping states draft legislative responses to the methamphetamine crisis.
"Eliminate Justice Assistance grants used to bolster multijurisdictional anti-drug task forces.
"'The Justice Assistance grants constitute the backbone of resources for drug task forces in Iowa,' said Dale Woolery, associate director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy. He said the task forces confiscated 268 pounds of methamphetamine last year."

The Oregonian noted in its story cited above, "In managing the reauthorization bill, Souder has added $25 million dedicated to running anti-meth awareness ads. He also has resisted administration efforts to cut money to the drug czar's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which often is used by local police to combat meth."

In spite of this, state officials are also criticizing Congress for its anti-methamphetamine efforts. The Greensboro News & Record reported on July 24, 2005 ( "Federal Meth Bill Could Preempt State Law") that "State leaders are worried that a pending North Carolina law designed to stop the spread of methamphetamine abuse could be thwarted by pending federal legislation on the same topic. Weaker or inflexible federal standards, they say, could end up blunting anti-methamphetamine rules the General Assembly is drafting. 'Different states have different problems when it comes to fighting methamphetamine, just as we do with any other crime,' N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said. 'States should have the ability to react to their own particular problems.'"

According to the News & Record, "Pending state legislation would restrict the sale of those medicines, allowing individuals to buy only enough for personal use and requiring stores to keep a log of who purchases the tablets. Under the more strict version of the bill being considered, medicines containing pseudoephedrine would have to be kept behind a pharmacy counter, rather than just a checkout counter such as at a convenience store. Oklahoma and Tennessee have enacted similar laws and have seen methamphetamine production drop as much as 80 percent. Oregon is contemplating a law that would require a prescription for those sorts of cold medicines. But advocates for retail stores are calling for looser controls, saying that preventing the spread of methamphetamine must be balanced with consumers' need for such medicines. 'Some counties don't even have a pharmacy in them,' said Andy Ellen, a lawyer with the N.C. Retail Merchants Association."

The News & Record noted that "Congress is considering federal legislation to combat the spread of methamphetamine, partly at the urging of national retail chains that worry about having to comply with 50 different sets of regulations across the United States. 'That makes all the sense in the world,' Ellen said. 'That way, everyone knows what the rules of the game are.' But state officials worry that a federal drug law would prevent them from enacting tougher regulations than the national standard. 'I would hope that they would have a very strict approach,' state Sen. Walter Dalton, a Rutherfordton Democrat, said of the federal rules. Federal rules could be useful for states, he suggested, perhaps doing more to restrict the sale of cold medicine via the Internet than states could do on their own. But Dalton, who helped write the statewide rules now being considered, said it would still be better for states to maintain flexibility in dealing with the problem. For example, states might find that a medicine or other potential ingredient not on the list of drugs controlled by the federal law had become useful for methamphetamine makers. 'It's clear that the state can react much more quickly to the problem than the federal government,' Cooper said. Concerns such as Cooper's won the day in Washington this past week, temporarily stalling a final debate and vote on the federal methamphetamine bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Committee staffers say a debate and vote on that bill is expected this week."

Iowa officials are concerned that new federal legislation aimed at curbing methamphetamine production will have the opposite effect and possibly undercut state efforts. The Des Moines Register reported on June 8, 2005 ( "Federal Meth Act Would Overrule State Law") that "Momentum is building in Congress to pass a nationwide law restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, the popular decongestant used to make the highly addictive drug methamphetamine. However, state leaders are upset that recent changes to the Combat Meth Act would allow the federal government to supersede tougher legislation enacted this year in Iowa to better control sales of meth's main ingredient. Narcotics officials in Iowa and elsewhere say they fear drug companies - which spend more money to lobby Congress than any other industry - are persuading key sponsors to water down the federal act, usurping strides made by states in recent months to curb meth production."

According to the Register, "Much of the concern nationally has centered on Iowa, where lawmakers this spring passed the toughest law in the country on restricting pseudoephedrine sales. State legislators, faced with a second-in-the-nation meth-lab problem, decided to require pseudoephedrine products to be sold in pharmacies, except for the lowest-dose liquids. A new draft of the federal measure would allow retail outlets to continue selling liquid- and starch-based pediatric medicines that can be used to make meth - and require all states to follow suit."

The Register reports that "A review of, a Web site associated with the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that tracks political contributions, shows candidates for Congress from Iowa in 2004 received at least $333,171 from sources noted as 'pharmaceuticals/health products.' The top recipient was Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican who received $260,421 from such sources, the Web site reports."

According to the Register, "As originally drafted, the Combat Meth Act, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin of Iowa, would not have superseded state laws that were more restrictive than the federal measure. However, the proposal has since been modified by its original authors, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Jim Talent, a Republican from Missouri, Iowa officials said. Scott Gerber, a spokesman for Feinstein, said his office had been 'working with the industry and Republicans to try to get a bill that everyone can support. . . . The pharmaceutical industry would fight strongly anything that wasn't a national standard.' Vilsack, Grassley and Harkin - as well as Iowa's drug czar and attorney general - have said they do not support the recent changes. 'I am concerned,' said Marvin Van Haaften, who heads the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy. 'We spent over two years debating, studying, discussing and wisely constructing the (state) bill that would become our final product. Now, the federal measure is in a state of flux, and we could easily wind up with a bill that is considerably weaker than ours.'

As the drug war spotlight has focused on methamphetamine in the decade of the 2000s, comparisons with the hype over crack in the 1980s are inevitably being made. The Sacramento Bee for example reported on April 17, 2005 ( "New Drug Wave Delivers 'Crank Babies'") that "It was as if 'crack babies' burst into the world with an alarm bell ringing in their cry. Researchers peered at them over clipboards with concern. The public stared at them on the evening news with shock. And the din of predictions about these babies, exposed to crack cocaine before they were born, doomed them to a fate that would never fully materialize. Now, the backlash against those exaggerations has left a resounding silence about a new generation of drug-exposed infants: 'crank babies.' As many as one in 10 babies born at UC Davis Medical Center between 1990 and 2002 had been exposed to methamphetamine - known as crank - according to a recent UC Davis study of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Sacramento County numbers underscore the problem: Half of the babies that tested positive for drug exposure here last year had traces of methamphetamine and other amphetamines in their systems. Funding for studies on how those crank babies are faring is skimpy, researchers say, noting that they have been loath to generate a buzz that vilifies another generation of mothers. They've also shied away from stigmatizing the children and dredging up public cynicism over the crack baby uproar."

Whether legitimate concerns about methamphetamine justify the hype is one question. Indeed, will the hysteria over crank make people cynical about whether it's a real problem? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, there is no doubt however that treatment for these women is not readily available. As the Bee reported, "State funding targeted for drug-using women who are pregnant or have young children has fallen 27 percent in Sacramento County over the past 10 years, from $2.6 million in 1995 to $1.9 million in 2005, in inflation-adjusted dollars, based on figures from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs."

History: The Bee noted that "The alarm that started the crack baby uproar first was set off in 1985, when Dr. Ira Chasnoff, a Chicago researcher, published a startling report in the New England Journal of Medicine. A crack-exposed baby, Chasnoff reported, has a smaller head and lower birth weight, and is more irritable than other infants. Television stations broadcast images of stiff and shaky babies. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, whose work is carried in newspapers across the nation, declared the babies a 'biological underclass.' 'When the earliest reports came out ... it was really sensational, slung all the way in one direction, and things were horrible,' Chasnoff recalled. Chasnoff's initial study looked at 23 infants and did not control for addicts' alcohol use or their typically chaotic environments. In 1992, when his more extensive study reported that crack had little effect on a toddler's intelligence, the issue was dismissed."

Indeed. A lack of real numbers hasn't stopped some from making dire pronouncements, even if they have to come up with numbers out of thin air. An Associated Press story carried by the Times Daily on March 28, 2005 ( "In Heartland, Children Suffer Consequences Of Parents' Meth Addiction") reported that "In Iowa, 5,887 children since 2001 have figured in abuse cases that directly involve illegal drugs, mostly meth -- either traces of drugs were found in their bodies or they were present while their parents manufactured meth. But that figure does not cover a range of other cases in which the abuse was classified as neglect, even though the parents' conduct stemmed from meth use. An ominous barometer was provided by [Carol] Gutchewsky [a regional supervisor of state social workers], who concluded after an intensive study that meth played a role in roughly half the serious child-abuse cases in her 16-county region -- 720 of 1,469 active, long-term cases. If that ratio applied statewide -- which officials say is plausible but not proven -- Iowa alone would be experiencing more than 6,000 meth-related child abuse cases per year."

In spite of the hype, there are concerns regarding substance use by pregnant women which must be taken seriously. Specifically regarding methamphetamine, AP in its story reported that "Dr. Rizwan Shah, a pediatrician at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, encountered her first meth-exposed child in 1993 and has studied more than 500 of them since, becoming a respected expert on the phenomenon. She stresses that the prognosis for meth-exposed kids varies widely, and strives to prevent them from being stereotyped. Some suffer serious brain damage and others experience long-lasting development problems, while many will grow into adults without serious health consequences, she said. What's beyond doubt, Shah says, is that pregnant women using meth are harming their babies. 'The brain gets hijacked by the drug,' she said, describing patterns of overstimulation and disrupted sleep cycles among infants, as well as hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder among meth-exposed school children. One 2-year-old boy Shah treats must be fed through a tube to his stomach because meth exposure left him unable to swallow properly. 'Substance abuse wasn't taught in my medical school,' Shah said. 'The people who use meth have been my teachers. They know, more than me, the bad things the drug can do, but they keep using it, trying to repeat the euphoria of the first time.' The mothers Shah meets often evoke meth's powerful lure -- an initial burst of energy, a sudden and welcome ability to lose weight. 'Some of these women are trying to be good mothers,' she added. 'But when you're high on meth, you don't take of yourself or your family. The older kids are parenting the younger ones and also parenting the parent. They lose their childhood to become caretakers.""

Legislation intended to help law enforcement crack down on methamphetamine production is being introduced in many US states. The Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 10, 2005 ( "States Battling Meth May Put Controls On Cold Pills") that "Over-the-counter cold pills may be removed from store shelves across much of the Southwest and Midwest this year as officials struggle to crack down on methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant that can be brewed from decongestants and other common household items. At least 20 states are considering tight restrictions on access to Sudafed, NyQuil, Claritin-D, Tylenol Flu and hundreds of other cold, allergy and sinus remedies that contain pseudoephedrine. Details vary, but in many states only pharmacists or their assistants would be allowed to dispense the medicines."

The laws are essentially based on a piece of legislation passed in Oklahoma in 2004. The Oklahoman newspaper reported on Jan. 17, 2005 ( "Officials Praise Anti-Meth Law") that "More than 20 other states are considering restricting over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine sales, according to the National Association of State Legislatures. Oregon passed a similar law last year, citing Oklahoma's success. Kansas is debating a measure. Gov. Brad Henry has written to the governors of the other states, encouraging them to adopt similar laws. 'The case I made to them was simple: The more states that restrict pseudoephedrine sales, the more difficult it will be for methamphetamine producers and dealers to operate,' Henry said. 'I'm thrilled that so many states have responded and followed our lead. These laws will help curb the meth trade and save lives.'"

According to the Oklahoman, "A state law passed last year that restricts the sale of pseudoephedrine already has saved the state more than a million dollars, law enforcement officials say. John Duncan, chief agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, estimates one meth lab has a $350,000 impact on the state. 'That is a very conservative estimate,' Duncan said. 'There are a lot of unknown costs that we can't estimate such as the costs to families and schools. Health costs that stem from illnesses caused by the dangerous chemicals found at meth labs, meth use or the effect of meth on unborn children is probably huge. We just don't know how much it's really costing us.' Oklahoma's new law, which took effect in April, is credited for cutting the number of methamphetamine labs by 50 percent to 70 percent. The law restricts the sale of the tablet form of pseudoephedrine to pharmacies."

It should be pointed out that it is very difficult to measure the extent of an illegal activity such as methamphetamine production. Assertions of success by OK officials are based on arrests and lab busts, according to the Oklahoman: "Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman Mark Woodward said the state has had 581 fewer meth lab busts since the measure was adopted. Meth lab busts in Tulsa decreased from 212 in November and December 2003 to 131 in November and December 2004. Oklahoma City had a similar decline, going from an average 14.5 lab busts a month to an average of five a month, Woodward said."

Indeed, even drug war zealots such as 'Drug Czar' John Walters are at least publicly skeptical of OK's claims of success: "John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Oklahoma was not the only state to report a big drop in meth lab raids. A dozen others had "substantial declines" last year, he told the Associated Press. 'There is promise in ( tight controls ), and if states want to do it, they're free to do it,' Walters said. 'But we're trying to make sure we're not blinded by Oklahoma's results to the point where we say this is it, nothing else works.' Critics of the Oklahoma law say addicts still can buy meth imported from Mexico and southern California. 'It's true that the majority of meth in the United States doesn't come from these small labs,' Woodward said."

According to the Oklahoman, "'I would like to see all 50 states adopt similar statutes,' Henry said. 'I also intend to push the U.S. Congress to consider a federal law that would set the standard nationally. The meth epidemic is a national problem that must be addressed.'"

Gov. Henry may find a west-coast ally on Capitol Hill: Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA. The Oregonian reported on Jan. 24, 2005 ( "Cantwell Set To Unveil Meth-Fighting Measure") that "Today in Congress, Cantwell expects to introduce the Confronting Methamphetamine Act of 2005 to combat the problem. Cantwell, who met Friday with local law enforcement leaders, said the bill would authorize $100 million a year for the next two years and $200 million a year afterward through 2010 to help: Arrest and prosecute meth producers. Assist in child and family services. Hire and train officers."

For more information check out MAPINC's archive of methamphetamine-related news stories.

Alabama Law Restricts Availability Of OTC Allergy Medicines

A new anti-methamphetamine law in Alabama will put allergy medicines like Sudafed behind the counter at drug stores. The Clanton Advertiser reported on Sept. 5, 2004 ( "New State Law Aimed To Curb Meth Cookers") that "In an effort to crack down on the manufacture of methamphetamine ( meth ), some local merchants have moved their products containing ephedrine and/or pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Others have refused to sell the products altogether. Large quantities of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are key ingredients in making meth and are often purchased from local retailers several packages at a time. The most popular form of the substance comes in decongestants like Sudafed. A new law, aimed at combating the meth problem in Alabama will require local retailers to put medicines like Sudafed behind the counter."

The Talladega Daily Home reported on Sept. 1, 2004 ( "Area Stores Pull Cold Medicine To Combat Meth Use") that "Following a new state law, pharmacies and grocery stores across the state have been pulling boxes of medicine containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient used in bootleg laboratories to manufacture the illegal drug crystal methamphetamine. The measure has been put in place in an attempt to crack down on the growing wave of crystal methamphetamine ( meth ) abuse across Alabama, said Jason Murray, commander of the Talladega County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force. Murray said the problem in Talladega County alone is overwhelming. 'I would say that if I didn't have anything else to do but concentrate my efforts on restricting meth labs we could work three or four a week,' Murray said. 'When you figure if we could work three or for a week - there's 52 weeks in a year. That makes 500 plus labs a year. There is not a day that goes by that we don't get a call about somebody cooking meth.'"

The Daily Home noted that "Murray, commander of the task force since the beginning of August, said that although the task force has only busted between 10 and 15 labs this year, he expected that to change under his leadership. 'I don't know if the task force has actively worked meth labs in the past, but we will be actively going after meth cooks from this point on,' he said. 'I think it has reached epidemic proportion statewide, and Talladega County is no different. We are a very rural county, and it makes it easier for people to have meth labs because we are such a rural county. These people are using meth and they're not getting it from Atlanta or Birmingham. They're getting it locally.'"

The Daily Home reported that "Pharmacists around the region say they plan to do all they can to stop the sale of pseudoephedrine to people who intend to abuse it. Mark Tow, director of pharmacies for Bruno's Supermarkets, which also owns and operates Food World in Talladega, said the move to restrict the sale of pseudoephedrine is critical in fighting the problem. 'We've already lost law enforcement agents here and in other states, so I think it's time that we look at the regulations in general, pharmacists included, and do our best to control the use of this product,' Tow said. 'It's important to keep it out of the hands of those that want to create something bad out of it.' Sal Shunnara, a pharmacist at Rite Aid in Sylacauga, said he is glad to see the drugs behind the counter for a number of reasons, the most important of which is because people were simply stealing whole shelves of the drug in broad daylight. 'The word is 'sweeping,'' Shunnara said. 'They carry in a big shopping bag and they just put their arm up behind the shelf and sweep the entire shelf into the bag. The reason we have a lot of people sweeping it - they know exactly when we have a warehouse order, and then the next day it's gone. These guys are very sneaky. You go to the shelf to help a customer, and there's none there, and you know yesterday you got 12 boxes and you know you don't sell 12 boxes in a day.'"

Mississippi Considers Legislation Restricting Availability Of Cold And Allergy Medications To Fight Meth Production; Some Stores In State Already Have Voluntary Limits

Some in the state of Mississippi are promoting the idea of restricting sales of some cold and allergy remedies as a way to stop production of methamphetamine. The Gulfport, MS Sun Herald reported on July 7, 2004 ( "Sale Of Cold Meds Restricted") that "State Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said the methamphetamine problem is a growing concern and if the state chose to enact a law to restrict the sales of over-the-counter cold medicines, he would support it. 'We need to look at this very carefully,' said Holland, chairman of the House Public Health Committee. 'It's sad that the people who really need those medicines are being imperiled by the people who are abusing it, but we can't have those drugs used for illegal purposes.' Mississippi passed a law in 2001 that increased criminal penalties for those people who are caught with products used to make methamphetamine. 'If someone is caught with two or more listed precursors and we have proof they intended to manufacture, it's a felony charge with up to 30 years in prison,' Owens said."

The Sun Herald noted that "Ten states have laws restricting the sales of cold and allergy medicines."

According to the Sun Herald, "At Brandon Discount Drugs, customers must request common drugs like Actifed or Sudafed from the pharmacist. 'We started putting them in the back a long time ago,' pharmacist Waymon Tigrett said. 'If they are using it for a legitimate use, we will sell it to them for legal reasons only,' he said. 'Most pharmacists I know either put their cold medicines in the back or make customers sign for them.' Pharmacy chains such as Fred's and Wal-Mart will only sell up to three boxes of drugs containing pseudoephedrine at one time."

Did Speed Kill? USAF Pilots Who Killed Canadian Soldiers In 'Friendly Fire' Incident Were On Speed

US Air Force pilots who dropped bombs on Canadian troops during the Afghanistan conflict in 2002 were on amphetamine, according to the Air Force. Officials deny that the drugs had any involvement, but attorneys for the pilots argue otherwise. As the Toronto Globe & Mail reported on Dec. 20, 2002 ( "US Pilots 'Guinea Pigs,' Lawyer Says") that "The American pilots who mistakenly killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were drugged-up 'guinea pigs' at the time of the bombing, one of their defence lawyers said yesterday. 'This was an Air Force science project using AF pilots as guinea pigs,' Charles Gittins, lawyer for Major Harry Schmidt, said in an e-mail interview with The Globe and Mail yesterday. This fall, a U.S. military investigation criticized the force's use of amphetamines, but found that the drugs used by Major Schmidt and Major Bill Umbach were simply 'not a factor' in the pilots' fateful decision to drop a 225-kilogram, laser-guided bomb on Canadian infantry soldiers. Eight were wounded and four were killed by the pilots, who mistook the ground troops for enemy fighters. The U.S. pilots have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Their defenders argue that blame should focus on higher-ups, and say that the U.S. military's use of amphetamines -- so-called 'go pills' -- deserves serious scrutiny."

According to the Globe & Mail, "ABC News reported yesterday that go pills were banned by the U.S. Air Force in 1992, but have been reintroduced. It quoted an Air Force general as saying the military prescribes go pills ( and no-go pills, their sleep-inducing counterparts ) in small, tightly controlled doses. The network said the two pilots were told they could be found unfit to fly if they did not take the drugs."

For more information about the US military's use of amphetamines, see this US Navy medical manual, "Performance Maintenance During Continuous Flight Operations, A Guide for Flight Surgeons -- NAVMED P-6410," from the Virtual Naval Hospital. According to it, "During Vietnam both the Air Force and Navy made amphetamines available to aviators. Intermittently since Vietnam up through Desert Storm the Air Force has used both amphetamines and sedatives in selected aircraft for specific missions." (p. 8)
"Following Desert Storm an anonymous survey of deployed fighter pilots was completed. 464 surveys were returned (43%). For Desert Storm: 57% used stimulants at some time (17% routinely, 58% occasionally, 25% only once). Within individual units, usage varied from 3% to 96%, with higher usage in units tasked for sustained combat patrol (CAP) missions. Sixty one percent of those who used stimulants reported them essential to mission accomplishment." (p. 8)

DEA Chief Hutchinson Makes Methamphetamine A Top Priority, Just Like His Predecessor; Holds Town Meetings, News Conferences

Newly-appointed DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson's "first official public appearance" was August 6, 2001 in Bellevue, WA at that state's first "Meth Summit," as the Eastside Journal reported on August 7, 2001 ( "New Drug Czar Here For 'Meth Summit'). Other speakers included Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), and Members of Congress Jennifer Dunn (R) and Jim McDermott (D) in addition to "more than 300 law enforcement, drug treatment and education professionals."

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Aug. 7, 2001 ( "Sharp Focus On Meth Danger"), Rep. McDermott told the conference that "This is 'Apocalypse Now.' It is a quantum leap on anything we've done, or had to deal with in the past.'"

Background: Rural Methamphetamine Use In The 90s

Proliferation of methamphetamine production and use in the US was noted in the late 1990s, as reported by several publications. Here are a few:
"Drug Czar Targets Meth Crisis"
"Crank, The 'Rural Crack,' Hits The Heartland - Hard"
"Farm Stores Enlisted In War Against Drugs"
"Anti-Drug Funds Spread Out In Search Of A Problem"

For more information about methamphetamine, check out the Meth Section of Drug War Facts.

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