Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Oklahoma meth law overhyped

Drug warriors across the country have been falling over themselves to emulate Oklahoma's anti-meth statute, which only allows pseudoephedrine tablets (a "precursor" substance used for making meth) to be sold by a pharmacist. Texas state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, has proposed SB 107, which emulates Oklahoma's law, and SB 108, which would increase prison sentences for meth production (See prior Grits coverage: 99 is not enough).

OK law enforcement says meth lab busts have declined in Oklahoma by 80% since the statute was implemented.

It may not be that simple, though. According to the Lawton (OK) Constitution (pdf), meth busts have declined there, but
over the same period, cocaine use skyrocketed to an "all-time high," with arrests for cocaine increasing by 660%.

So if meth busts declined by 80%, but meth users substituted cocaine, arrests for which increased 660%, did the new policy really curb drug abuse in Oklahoma? It seems a stretch to say so.

Here's an alternative explanation: roughly the same percentage of people appear to be addicted to hard drugs in Oklahoma as before the new meth law, just to a different drug, one supplied by Colombian drug lords instead of local meth cooks. But it's not as though a large number of Okies aren't still sucking powder up their noses.

The Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee has proposed expanding drug courts and treatment programs as a way to actually reduce drug abuse. That seems more productive than just shifting addicts from one drug to another.

Update: "War on Sniffles" harms public safety.


Sarah said...

I have a feeling there are a few other allergy sufferers out there who are as unenthusiastic about this bill as I am. Red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, anhydrous ammonia, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel, and antifreeze are also common meth ingredients - why not ban this chemicals instead?

Maybe we should be more careful about NOT using the term pseudoephedrine - which means nothing to the public - and using the brand names instead?

Examples of pseudoephedrine-containing over the counter drugs:Afrin; Cenafed; Decofed; Dorcol; Efidac/24; Pediacare; Sinutab; Sudafed; Triaminic

All of the "BrandName-D" (i.e. Claritin-D, etc.) allergy+decongestant drugs contain pseudoephedrine too.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You're right about naming the brands. Thanks for pulling that together!

Personally I don't have a big problem with putting the stuff behind the counter, but I think it makes it too restrictive to require folks go to the pharmacy. Right now you can buy Sudafed at the Dollar store, but in a pharmacy the price would be higher. That could have a negative impact on low-end consumers.

Mostly I just think it won't solve the problem, if the problem is that X% of people are addicted to snorting powder. Folks just substitute other drugs.