Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pseudoephedrine restrictions raise fears of 'more addiction, more overdoses, and more violence'

Following Oklahoma's lead (and let's face it, can that ever be a good idea?) Texas earlier this year required pseudoephedrine products (mostly over-the-counter cold medicine) to be kept behind store counters and to require cold-sufferers to sign a logbook documenting their purchase. The idea was to reduce the number of bath-tub-gin-style "meth labs," mostly low-level users making meth for their own private consumption ("Traditional meth busts decrease, meth ice busts spike," KFDX TV, Nov. 16):
Local officers say since a Texas law went into effect restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, the number of Meth labs found in Texoma has dropped. Instead of working at least one lab a week, they are working one every few weeks, which is a welcomed change since labs are highly toxic.
Instead, though, now a more potent, cheaper Mexican version of meth is flooding Texas' market, causing law enforcement to issue the same, tired, dire predictions we heard just months ago about home meth labs:
[O]fficer John Spragins with the North Texas Drug Task Force says officers are just beginning to confront a new problem.

Meth Ice is a purer form of Methamphetamine and it is popping up weekly. One bust last week netted $88,000 worth of Ice. Spragins says with more people on Ice, he fears we will see more addiction, more overdoses, and more violence.
Well, that's an excellent result, isn't it, for a three month old law? More addiction, more overdoses, and more violence! Surely it's now evident that trying to stamp out supply without managing demand cannot solve America's drug problems. State Sen. Craig Estes and his cohorts who passed this ill-conceived law were chasing their own tails. This substitution problem in Northeast Texas and Oklahoma is just a microcosm of the bigger dilemma -- addicted people can always find a way to get high. (At the DPA conference I heard a physician from Mexico City tell how street kids who can't afford pot sniff cheap glue that's far worse for them.)

Drug treatment is the best way to reduce meth addiction, and where Texas counties have put money into the strategy, it's working. More supply-side solutions focusing on punitive approaches aren't really helping anything.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Drug Task Force Supervisor here again:

I agree with what you said but you need to refine your idea.

More enforcement is absolutely necessary at certain levels of drug distribution. That's the supply side and it's necessary becasue not all users sell and not all sellers use.

There are dangerous criminal organizations that only distribute drugs and those organizational leaders need to be stopped.

If you don't want drug agents arresting users and addicts, don't you want drug agents arresting more of the organizers who aren't users and addicts?

That's not an easy job and the pool of hard targets(organizers) isn't as large as the pool of easy targets (users and addicts).

Law enforcement has blurred the lines and levels of drug enforcement and you'll keep making the same suggestions until they're unblurred.

Catonya said...

Kudos to Drug Task Force Supervisor for a no-nonsense statement.

'nuff said

hope said...

Drug Task Force Supervisor, you said, "More enforcement is absolutely necessary at certain levels of drug distribution."

Why do you think that it wouldn't be better if the people who want meth could buy it, regulated to a reasonable degree, at a store?

I feel, sincerely, that every dime, and every bit of time spent on such "enforcement" is a dime taken away from finding murderers, rapists, and kidnappers.

I don't like what I'm being forced to pay for in the matter of drug law enforcement. There are a lot of people like me.

hope said...

And please, please...don't tell me if I don't like it, to leave the country. It's my country. I love it. I want it to be the best it can be. It's my home and it's mine just as much as it is yours.

Since you do sound sensible and thoughtful, though, I expect you won't say that.

The Rep. said...

Good story my friend.

hope said...

" murderers, rapists, and kidnappers."
and thieves, of course. Too many people get away with all those real crimes.

Law enforcement does an amazing job of rounding up those who are truly, to be feared...but many "practitioners" of such true crime do get away with it, for lack of investigation.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hope:

Legalization is a step but it may not be the next step. I'm not certain of the next step only that once something is legalized, there's unintended consequences that could be worse.

In Europe, they legalized drugs in an area thinking it would alleviate drug use and drug related crime. It did reduce the crime but the people who used; then became parents who used; then parents of children who used; and eventually it was a community of users who couldn't work and had no health care. The social costs were financially higher and more devastating than enforcing the drug laws.

I would never tell anyone who lives and loves this country to leave it for any reason. However be careful what you wish for because what you get could be worse.

And besides, once you make meth legal, who decides which drugs are legal and which ones aren't. Just because you use meth, don't assume you know about other the harmful social and psychological affects of other new drugs.

Take it from me, this is not rocket science. Law enforcement has blurred the lines and the reasons aren't good ones.

Unblur the lines and levels first. During that process, realize that people will always try to alter the way they feel, especially if they feel bad. Some end up liking it and that number belive it or not is fairly constant.

That means a high percentage of the population in the U.S. will be some type of drug user and a percentage of that addicts; regardless of the enforcement levels and regardless of the drug.

Drug treatment has to be as important or more than law enforcement. Right now it's not and it's not because most of the people believe that "locking em up" is the only way to get a person off of drugs. That law enforcment model is the only one used so under that theory locking more people up means there should be less drugs.

Attacking drugs on the supply side at certain levels is like giving a whale a tic tac.

Think about that at least a day before you respond.

hope said...

Thank you.

And ok, I will "Think about that at least a day before you respond."

hope said...

Drug Task Force Supervisor,

One thing...could you link me to any information about the experiment or situation you mention?

"In Europe, they legalized drugs in an area thinking it would alleviate drug use and drug related crime. It did reduce the crime but the people who used; then became parents who used; then parents of children who used; and eventually it was a community of users who couldn't work and had no health care. The social costs were financially higher and more devastating than enforcing the drug laws."

Anonymous said...

Dear Hope:

The research may be older than you and computers so there is no single link.

It started in Switzerland. In the early 80's the Swiss government started a needle exchange program which reduced HIV but increased the presence of what was later called "needle parks"

"Needle Parks" became havens for users and sellers and there were ugly public images that didn't please the Swiss.

Eventually they closed the needle parks but new ones appeared and then the Swiss came up with the idea of "Drug Substitution".

Currently, the Swiss and other countries are using a "Heroin Prescription Program" but it's an experiment after two failed experiments. There are critics and proponents of the program.

I mentioned the downside of the program but there has also been a reduction of HIV, reduction of crime, and the program saves life.

Canada just started a Heroin Prescription program but keep in mind this research has been going on for 20 years and they only drug involved in heroin.

I lived in that area so I know about it from first hand experience. The Swiss don't have the answer but they're trying. At least they don't do what didn't work like us.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Drug Task Force Supervisor:

You and I may not actually be that far off from one another. I have no beef with going after criminal smuggling gangs. I've no interest at all in advocating on behalf of the guys turning the border into a killing zone.

But how to get them and not just an endless stream of clueless mules and coyotes? That's why I don't want new resources to go toward pursuing those guys, rather I'd prefer officers currently pursuing low-level addicts shifted toward that more productive goal. We've got plenty of enforcement resouces, they're just misspent. More demand-side spending is what's missing, IMO.

Thanks for your comments -- nice to have somebody from the task forces speak up who isn't quite so angry. Best,

Anonymous said...

Scott,

I worked in drug law enforcement and you have no idea how much federal money supports local efforts.

On top of that, every department joins some type of federal task force so they can get a part of federal forfeitures. Federal agencies use it to lure prospective members and the split is 80% to the local agencies; 20% back to the federal agency.

Then every state has counties and the state attorney generals and the counties use asset forfeiture to finance more drug task forces, hire more prosecutors, hire more cops, and finance drug conferences in posh places.

This is unregulated non-taxpayer income that police departments and prosecutors use on top of tax dollars.

It's become a big business and to stop the business you have to stop the money.

The solution to this problem is easier than you think.

The ACLU has offices all across the country but for some reason their effort focuses on solutions funded mostly by taxpayers.

Tax payer solutions are not popular but there's a simpler fix that doesn't cost any tax payer anything.

Asset forfeiture money at the local, state, and federal level can only be used for drug treatment or education.

It's simple, straightforward and that's the narrow but effective focus of the ACLU in all 50 states.

You fix that and you'll see good changes overnight.

But that won't solve the problem because you'll see a drastic reduction in enforcement once the unregulated money leaves.

Then the financial burden shifts back to the taxpayers so that shift needs to be part of the future plan.

There's an old saying in law enforcment that the best way to stop the evil empire is to stop the flow of money.

Stated differently, use what they use to stop them: and at no cost to the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Scott,

One more thing. Using all forefeited drug profits to finanace treatment for addiction will also be politically popular because race, the level of the dealer, and it's cost won't be decisive political issues.

Hope said...

Dear Task Force Commander,

You said, "Legalization is a step but it may not be the next step. I'm not certain of the next step only that once something is legalized, there's unintended consequences that could be worse."

Can it get worse than missionaries being shot out of the sky? An innocent woman killed by the same bullet that passed through her baby's body and killed the child in almost the same instant it kills the mother. Or a young boy, 11, trying to do what he was ordered to and being shot in the back with a shot gun, at very, very close range, on his bedroom floor, beside his bunk bed, by an officer of the law? Accidentally? Could such an accident have been avoided?

Can it be worse than a fourteen year old girl surrounded and killed because they thought it was her Daddy in the car…who was, horrors of horrors, suspected of being a drug dealer?

Wrong house raids? Can it get worse than scaring an old woman or an old preacher to death as she or he is getting ready for work?

Here's a, by no means complete, list. http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2003/08/17/drugWarVictims.html It's hideous as it is.

Those were people, Mr. Task Force Commander. Real people. Every last one of them. Not demons. Not "bad guys" any more than anybody else. Not "scumbags" or "perps". They were people. Some of them children. Many of them children. You know this is a short, short list.

There are hundreds of those awful…and true stories and they are discounted, swept away…and done again and again. Collateral damage? The price of "war"? That's unacceptable.

Accidents? Very preventable accidents, and to continue "raiding" citizen's homes, wrong or right house, or shooting people out of the sky, wrong or right plane, is unacceptable, not for any amount of "evidence".

We have to end the war on some drugs.

It's done too much damage to too many people already. It's done more damage than any amount of the presently illegal drugs have ever done or could ever do.

hope said...

The infamous "Needle Park" in Switzerland.

"Legalized" is hardly the word for what was done in the Needle Park experiment.

It was a recipe for disaster.

What do you suppose would happen if we opened a "bottle and beercan" park for alcoholics in a dry county or during nation wide prohibition of alcohol, as the only place that drinkers and alcoholics could legally, meaning "without fear of arrest", use their drug?

This one place? Bottle and Beer Can Park. In public, not privately, at that?

All of them that use alcohol to any degree, the bold or social ones, that is, in one place in public? Being a spectacle. How would that work out?

"Needle Park" was a disaster. It almost looks as though it were meant to be.

You said, "In Europe, they legalized drugs in an area thinking it would alleviate drug use and drug related crime. It did reduce the crime but the people who used; then became parents who used; then parents of children who used; and eventually it was a community of users who couldn't work and had no health care. The social costs were financially higher and more devastating than enforcing the drug laws."

" In Europe, they legalized drugs in an area thinking it would alleviate drug use and drug related crime." I've never heard of this experiment.

What drugs did they legalize? Where in Europe?

I've not heard of any place in Europe that the drugs that we generally think of as illegal, were ever made legal. I'd like to know more about the situation you are talking about.

"…eventually it was a community of users who couldn't work and had no health care." Drug users can and do work.

No health care? That was unnecessary cruelty, wasn't it? Why were they denied health care? Most of Europe has health care for all it's citizens.

Odd that in the community you speak of that they should be denied what all other citizens receive. That would seem like an unnecessary strike against them from the get-go.

hope said...

Dear Task Force Commander,

To continue…

You said, "And besides, once you make meth legal, who decides which drugs are legal and which ones aren't."

I suppose that would be the government. They are the ones who made the drugs illegal in the first place. Which drugs? Any of them that are part of the problem being illegal. The more dangerous ones should be more carefully handled, but handled, none the less.

"Just because you use meth, don't assume you know about other the harmful social and psychological affects of other new drugs."

Why would you assume I use meth?

Must be the irrepressible narcotics officer in you.

Actually, I'm blessed enough to have fairly good insurance and to be able to afford to purchase any drugs I might need or want from the store or pharmacy.

As far as meth is concerned, I chose meth as an example because it's the latest "drug blight...epidemic...cancer...disaster...plague...whatever" hysteria being promoted by the media and law enforcement.

If it's truly a plague and all that, I expect a huge percentage of people all around me every day are meth addicts.

It's a rampant scourge, a plague. Right?

That must mean half, two thirds, some horrible amount of the people I see everyday are hopelessly addicted to illegal methamphetamine?

I "detect" a bit, too, and I detect something else in your statement, " Just because you use meth, don't assume you know about other the harmful social and psychological affects of other new drugs." The way you've stated that indicates that, possibly, you know that it is possible for some, perhaps, many, people to use the stuff of "death, violence, destruction, plagues, curses, serpentine evil, cancer upon the nation, destroyer of our youth and future, epidemic, disease, etc.", the hideous monster...meth, without coming completely undone.

Obviously, some do lose control of their use, if what we're told is true. At the same time, if what we're told is true about the extent of it's use in the population, apparently, a lot of them are functioning quite well.

Methamphetamine is already legal if you have a prescription. It is often prescribed to children with so called "learning and social disorders" and people with narcolepsy. Oh yes, and people who fly our fighter jets.

I understand that it's not one of the more expensive drugs, either.

I also understand that drug testing has made methamphetamine more popular than the less likely to be poisonous cannabis among those who choose to use the presently illegal substances.

It's just amazing that apparently more people break the drug laws than run stop signs. There isn't a veritable plague of that behavior…or is there?


"...don't assume you know about other the harmful social and psychological affects of other new drugs."

I wouldn't assume to know that, for any reason, other than facts, and perhaps we shouldn't be spending so much money and manpower to teach others to assume such a thing, either.

hope said...

To continue, Sir, you said, "That means a high percentage of the population in the U.S. will be some type of drug user and a percentage of that addicts; regardless of the enforcement levels and regardless of the drug."

That sounds sensible.

Mankind has always sought out herbs, substances, plasters, drugs, ointments, smokes, drinks and concoctions to make himself feel better or function or perform better. I, personally, don't like doing without my caffeine.

(I also have severe allergic rhinitus ..which translates to really, really bad hay fever. I can't function without "drugs" when it's bad.)

Drugs of any kind can be dangerous or out of place, but perhaps, certainly, not always.

Antibiotics could kill me and nearly have. They could also save my life or someone else's life.

All drugs, substances, and concoctions should be used with care and caution, but to get all in a busy body, self righteous uproar and arrest people or cause them to be arrested for using them, on their own bodies, is horrible and unjust.

Hope said...

Dear Task Force Commander

"Drug treatment has to be as important or more than law enforcement. Right now it's not and it's not because most of the people believe that "locking em up" is the only way to get a person off of drugs. That law enforcement model is the only one used so under that theory locking more people up means there should be less drugs."

Forced drug treatment is no better than incarceration. Treatment should be available to anyone who wants it, but it should not be forced on people.

How do you suppose most people came by that "lock em up" business?

How have we as a people become convinced that if you love them...the best thing to do, if they do, or you suspect they do, use any drugs that you disapprove of, or even think or "conspire" to do them, is "lock em up" and if you hate or despise them...the best thing to do is "lock em up"?

I can tell you how.

It was done through a very expensive, successful, planned program of purposely induced hysteria and demonization.

People have been made to be so afraid of certain drugs and certain people, that what has been created, and is going to be very difficult to undo, is a sort of mass insanity.

I am quite old enough to know that we, as a society, as families, have always had crazy people among us. We have always had dishonest and dangerous people here and there, all around. We have always had mean people. We have always had thieves and robbers and murderers and con men.

We even, as a society and as families, had mental illnesses to deal with before drugs became more popular.

People die from dangerous things all the time. They always have. There are many, many very dangerous things in life that we have always had to learn how to use, and live with, and be cautious about.

Always, there have been those who were more cautious than others and those who were more bold than others.

It was dangerous to go west in the settling of this nation...but many did it. Should we have stopped them, with force if necessary, because it was our choice, not theirs, that it was too dangerous and they might die?

Danger, misdeeds, disaster, death, and terrible risk didn't just suddenly appear along with large groups of people using recreational or feel better drugs.

It's stunning the number of people who like to think that all the problems of the world today are caused by drugs and drug use. It's a dangerous delusion, yet they cling to it and find some sort of comfort in it, apparently.

hope said...

To finally conclude my answer, Sir.

"Attacking drugs on the supply side at certain levels is like giving a whale a tic tac."

We should quit "attacking" drugs on any side or any level.

We should educate, caution, and warn the public about the dangers and disadvantages of drug use, and regulate for age, safety, and purity.

We shouldn't do to people what we are doing now in the name of somehow saving or rescuing someone from drugs.

If the WoD is supposed to be a rescue operation on any level...it's a really bad one and it's failed miserably.

People can be helped, if they need it, and rescued, if they need it, a lot more mercifully and sensibly than is being done now.

I appreciate your willingness to listen to a citizen who disagrees with the war on drugs.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Now, Hope! 11 comments in response to our dear, sweet friend the Drug Task Force Supervisor? For heaven's sake, sweetie, don't scare away the wildlife! I want folks like DTF Supervisor to feel comfortable commenting here, not like they'll be harangued. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but remember brevity is the soul of wit. :-)

Hope said...

Sorry. (Blush Blush)

I wanted to speak to all the points I mentioned and knew it was too much for one post. It actually was just one post divided. I don't mean to harangue the commander either.

Goodness, I hope I didn't make him not want to listen or speak here anymore.

It would have been better had I spoken to him right away in answer to his post, but he did ask me to delay my answer. I've been thinking about it a lot for a very long time and sometimes that lid I try to keep on things just goes to rattling and rattling.

Sorry.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

hope said...

Soap box disassembled and put away. For as long as I can stand it, anyway.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No harm. You have a happy Thanksgiving, too.

sh

Anonymous said...

Dear Hope,

With a name like that, I thought you'd be different.

My answer is brief.

The police raid houses and make arrests for other crimes besides drugs every day. Accidents on raids and arrests will happen even if the drug war ends.

As it relates to the Needle Park experiment, the readers who know about it can tell you didn't read
far enough to know enough. You sound hopeful, speak like it.

As it relates to legalizing drugs, I had a family member die at a very young age because he was addicted to illegal drugs. He was a good kid and he tried every treatment program that was available. My drug enforcment job had nothing to with my comments so your response was out of line, insensitive and frankly mean.

As it relates to the rest of your answer. You need to read and think more about what you wrote than what I wrote.

I'm not sure what you said.

If you had a point, it was well hidden in the type of words you decided to use.

I get the sense from the way you over-answered that your soapbox may be causing more problems than it cures.

Others thought the same thing.

Task Force Supervisor

hope said...

Dear Task Force Supervisor,

Please accept my apology. I am so, so sorry that my comments made me sound mean or insensitive. The last thing in the world I would ever want to be is mean or insensitive. I am truly ashamed at the thought of being "mean", in any way, to anyone or anything. I am so sorry for that.

I am sorry about your loss to drug use of someone you love.

Eloquent and well spoken, I am not and you are likely right that I harden those I disagree with more than convince them to see my point. If I can't learn to do better, I need to "stifle it".

That being said, I want to say that one of the several reasons that I have learned to hate the present day prohibition is that I have family and loved ones in law enforcement and I think prohibition of drugs makes their jobs unnecessarily more dangerous than it already is.

We lost a father, brother, son, and husband, a state trooper in another state, because a man he stopped on the highway one night suddenly decided he did not want to be cuffed and caged over a small bag of marijuana, which is what was going to happen in that state.

If that substance, less poisonous than aspirin, alcohol, or tobacco, had not been illegal and had not had such draconian punishments assigned to that illegality, both of them might be alive today.

Some in our family still think that our trooper was killed because of marijuana, the substance itself somehow being the cause. I've come to the conclusion that he was killed because of prohibition of the substance.

That was just one thing in the plethora of things that I was finding the drug war stacking in front of me. Finally, there was such a large pile of "wrong stuff" having to do with drug prohibition, that I felt I had to speak out against it or be complicit in it.

I believe Dynamic Entry, as a law enforcement tactic, is way over used, particularly in drug prohibition enforcement, and in fact is probably a poor and dangerous tactic to use in any but a very unusual situation and should be reserved exclusively to military use in true wartime battle. It's a terroristic tactic and does not need to be a part of keeping the peace or enforcing the laws of a free country. Dynamic Entry needs to be subject to a lot more serious and unbiased study. I'm know that my opinion doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but there it is anyway.

I am truly sorry if I seem mean or uncouth in any way.

You seem far more reasonable than any person who favors prohibition that I have ever spoken to. I really do appreciate that, I'm just not used to it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hope,

Apologies always accepted and my deepest heartfelt sympathy for your love ones.

Your opinion does matter and if you think about things; we're not that far off.

Drug enforcement has grown disproportionately out of control largely because even the enforcers families are affected; like mine.

Drugs touch everyone's lives in one way or another and only hypocrits think otherwise.

Those who want it legalized want it that way, in part, because they feel legalizing it removes the crime, which removes the threat of arrest, which removes large profits, etc.

Both sides have legitimate concerns but there's only two sides: legal or illegal. That is really a conundrum and nothing is going to politically change with divisive conditions like that.

The strategy used by law enforcement is all wrong. It has been for ten years but it doesn't change. It doesn't change because drug enforcement has become like a business. There's large profits at stake and it's the only law enforcement function that actually makes the department money.

Before legalizing drugs, take the business out of drug enforcement; redefine the lines and levels and I promise the rest will take care of itself.

I hope you see the wisdom in that from someone who knows how unwise it's been. You're not mean just concerned and you'd be surprised how many drug agents feel the same way as me.

Former Task Force Supervisor

hope said...

Thank you for accepting my apology.

You're so right that law enforcement shouldn't be a for profit business.

I remember when legislators first came up with the idea that law enforcement could support itself from seizures. Several legislators warned of what would happen if we took the tact we are are using now. They said there would be dire consequences. They were right.

Anonymous said...

Addiction means a person has no control over whether he or she uses a drug or drinks.
*************************
Drilisha


Addiction treatment and recovery resources for the addict and their families. http://www.addictiontreatment.net

Sinus Infections For Life said...

You missed the most important point... I'm sitting here with another sinus infection, useless antibiotics and a useless bottle of guaifenesin, haven't slept in days, can barely breathe, facing the propsect of another sinus surgery... Why does Uncle Sam feel this is necessary? I've never used Meth. I've never used Alcohol. I've never used Tobacco. I've never had a traffic ticket. I've never been convicted of a crime. My blood pressure is 107/84. My pulse is 52. I graduated magna cum laude. My credit score is over 830. Why can't I have the one drug that can give me sleep for the first time in six days? Why can't I just be allowed to breathe, if only for a few hours?

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