Friday, October 09, 2009

Pseudo solution to pseudoephedrine problem

I am not going to repeat what I have said previously about making pseudoephedrine prescription only here and here. And I am not going to start on about rabid authoritarianism and the slow but sure curtailing of freedoms rightly exercised by productive and harmless individuals.

The model is Oregon so best just go there and read what the results have been after 4 years. Mixed and not easy to measure.

The following are excerpts from two columns from Oregon Public Broadcasting News which are from Tuesday and Wednesday this week;

Oregon became the talk of the West Coast for making pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient for illegal meth, a prescription drug.

And yet you don’t have to go far to hear about how meth is still very much in circulation.

Todd Eno: “I’m Todd Eno. I know a few friends of mine that are into it. I do once in a while.”

Eno spent last Sunday morning at a North Portland grocery store, feeding bottles and cans into the recycling machine for some change.

He’s beyond skinny, emaciated, really, his long blue jacket hanging on him like a scarecrow’s coat.

He says he definitely noticed changes between the meth that’s on the street now, and what was sold when pseudoephedrine was easy to get.

Todd Eno “It’s a lot different. MSM is what they’re using.”

Eno’s talking about Methylsulfonylmethane -- one of several alternative meth ingredients you can still get over the counter.

Todd Eno: “You go in there and buy that for a couple of bucks, spend two or three dollars and you can smoke all you want.”

But he says, it’s not as strong as what was on the market before...

Arrests for meth production, trafficking, and possession trended down between 2006 - the year pseudo became a prescription - and last year.

Even officers who were skeptical about the change admit they’ve seen a shift. They’re relieved to find fewer biohazards on crime scenes.

At the same time, Jeff says the days of swooping in on meth cooks coming home from the drug store are long gone.

Jeff: “We obviously can’t do that anymore. We deal with informants, people that are charged with crimes that want to talk. We continue to run with troopers on the highway running interdictions, stuff like that. Working narcotics is the darker side of the business sometimes.”

And getting darker. Jeff says one thing the pseudoephedrine law also changed: when Oregon’s mom & pop shops started to shut down, and drug trafficking organizations solidified their hold on the meth trade...

Bill Piper “Meth labs are down, but most of what you call meth labs weren’t 'labs'. A lot of law enforcement in a lot of states, if they went to a house and someone was making meth in the kitchen sink - most cases that was for persona use – there was a tendency to call that a lab largely because they had to prove they were busting up these labs to get more money. That’s not at all a criticism of law enforcement, it’s more a criticism of the funding streams, which kind of distorted incentives."

Piper says it’s a little too soon for policymakers to say whether the the pseudoephedrine law helped or hurt. There are officers around the state who say the law really cut down local meth production, which caused a slew of environmental and social problems.

But others say it’s eliminated some homegrown competition for large drug trafficking organizations. There’s general agreement these groups are regaining the influence they had before the "Mop & Pop" meth labs set up shop in Oregon.

And from the second column about whether addiction has reduced;

Livingston says the pseudoephedrine law wasn't a bad idea, but it hasn't really made meth less available. Her counselor, New Step Director Maria Couch, agrees she's not seeing fewer meth addicts either.

Maria Couch "I have not. I don't see that the numbers have dropped at all."

Addicts are taking advantage of meth made out of state, or meth made without pseudoephedrine at all.

The year the pseudoephedrine law was passed, 15,000 people sought treatment for meth at state-funded facilities. Last year, that number was closer to 11,000. That's 4000 fewer people.

So did the stranglehold on meth ingredients lead to lower addiction rates? Not exactly. There were plenty of people who needed treatment for meth abuse, but didn't get it, because there wasn't enough money to pay for it.

Karen Wheeler runs Addictions Policy and Programs for the state of Oregon. She says funding for treatment of all addictions has actually dropped by tens of millions of dollars, in the years since the pseudoephedrine law was passed.


Kiwiwit said...

Indeed. Sir Peter Gluckman is starting to get on my wick. My blog:

brian_smaller said...

"Livingston says the pseudoephedrine law wasn't a bad idea, but it hasn't really made meth less available."

So what was the point of it other than to be seem to be doing something. Laws that don't work, aren't needed.

Anonymous said...

Why is China not being pressured to do something about its untrammeled trade in the raw material?


Lucy said...

Sir Peter Gluckman is fitting in very well with John Key and this government and they all get on my wick. And I voted for them!!!!!