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Methamphetamine Seizures Increase Tenfold While Opioid Overdoses Continue to Soar

2018-02-13

The Con administration’s reasons for building the Wall included border-crossers with cantaloupe calves from carrying backpacks full of “drugs” (anything from penicillin to potpourri) and it seems that, in  one respect, they are partly right: the rate of seizure of methamphetamine at the border south of San Diego has increased by tenfold in the last ten years, to over 20,000 pounds in 2016.  Seizures at Laredo and Tucson have increased in a similar fashion.   However, the rate of deaths from stimulant abuse has only increased by 2-1/2 times in the same ten years ( see this CDC publication, 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. )  This represents a complete failure of Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs.”

 

The driver appears to be the Combat Methamphetamine Act, a law passed in 2005 that, in addition to other strictures, has placed pseudoephedrine behind the counter in pharmacies and limited individual purchasers to  7.5 grams every 30 days.  The first result of the law was to reduce home-brewing of methamphetamine by a dangerous but simple to learn process involving large quantities of over-the-counter decongestants ( those who still do this acquire the starting ingredient by a procedure known as “smurfing” ) thereby reducing the strain on law-enforcement agencies that had been forced to do HAZMAT duties to clean up the poisonous byproducts.

The second result of the law was to encourage drug cartels to take up the slack, which they have done with alacrity.  The fact that the “War on Drugs” has been lost is nowhere more apparent than in the low prices and ready supply of 100% pure methamphetamine on the street.  In Portland, Oregon, methamphetamine is available for $5 a hit and has frequently been the only thing in stock.  Like heroin, the supply of meth mostly comes from abroad, and like heroin, potency and affordability of meth has soared over the years since 1971, when Richard Nixon declared that drug abuse was the nation’s most serious threat and instituted the “War on Drugs.”

Another feature of our abject failure to win or even fight an effective rear-guard action in the War on Drugs is the fact that opioid overdose deaths have increased several-fold, partly because, due to competition, suppliers have increased the potency of heroin by adding fentanyl ( 50 times as strong as heroin )  or carfentanil ( 5000 times as strong ) to pure heroin while keeping the price the same.    Heroin seizures have nearly tripled at the Southwest border over the last five years, according to the Washington Post, while in the same five years, methamphetamine seizures have quintupled.

Oddly, despite the public narrative blaming doctors for prescribing opioids as the cause of the dramatic increases in overdose deaths, the rate of prescriptions for these drugs has not increased very much– a table from the above-named drug threat assessment shows, for example, hydrocodone units prescribed at 7.2 billion in 2007, increasing to 8.8 billion in 2012, and decreasing to 6.2 billion units in 2016.  Oxycodone showed a similar trend.  It appears that the real cause of overdose deaths, in the majority of cases, is heroin, and latterly, heroin mixed with fentanyl.  Perhaps doctors have contributed to the scourge by putting people on prescription drugs and then denying them further refills after they become hooked.  Perhaps.

A future post will look at what has been, will be, and/or should be done about these problems.

 

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