Meth is an equal opportunity destroyer. I have many friends and family members whose lives have been devastated by this horrible drug. Countless grandparents across America are raising their grandchildren because their children are addicted to meth. Tragically, our meth epidemic is completely unnecessary. Greed has stood in the way of effective solutions.
American democracy and capitalism depend on checks and balances. When the power of corporate profit seriously erodes public health and safety, something has gone wrong. That is the story of our meth epidemic.
I am a simple county lawyer who has a tendency to take on causes where power and money are distorting what is in the public interest. I also have four teenagers, which is why I’m aging at a rate faster than normal. After I saw the growing devastation of meth in the 1990’s, particularly its impact on our youth, I decided to join the many dedicated people who are fighting the meth monster. Like most of my friends, I quickly realized that any effective solution to our meth epidemic will require strong support for a three-legged stool of prevention, enforcement, and treatment. I decided that my own skills could best be applied to meth legislation. Thankfully, my employer agreed.
Meth is different from many other drugs of abuse. First, meth creates more collateral damage — on addicts, families, neighborhoods, communities, and children. Second, it doesn’t occur in nature. You can’t grow meth. Today’s potent meth must be “cooked” up using pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used in some cold medicines. This means that meth is uniquely susceptible to supply-side intervention.
Over the past decade, there have been strong efforts in Congress and state legislatures to clamp down on pseudoephedrine. Our goal was to make it harder for meth cooks to get the key ingredient they need, and cause cold pill manufacturers to switch from pseudoephedrine to another decongestant. Those efforts were strongly opposed by the powerful pharmaceutical and retail lobbies.
But in 2004, we managed to overcome the lobbyists in Oklahoma and Oregon. As a result, meth labs dropped in those states by 80 percent, and the largest manufacturer of pseudoephedrine products switched to a different decongestant. This was an important first step. However, we desperately need strong federal legislation to nationalize this success and also clamp down on the international pseudoephedrine feeding the “superlabs” that produce 65 percent of this devastating drug.