The use of amphetamines, and more specifically, methamphetamine, continues to escalate. Subsequently, the skyrocketing costs for enforcing meth laws have become a real issue in the United States.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the number of people entering treatment for amphetamine addiction, and again, mainly methamphetamine addiction, increased from 21,000 admissions to 151,00 admissions in the time period of 1993 to 2004.
Since cold medications were readily available for purchase at most drugstores and pharmacies, and the other necessary ingredients could be purchased at a hardware store, manufacturers have been able to concoct ways of producing the drug without any odor.
Additionally, methamphetamine production went from a capability of about one pound per day, to an estimated 10 to 150 pounds in two days in labs run by Mexican gangs.
Methamphetamine’s Increased Production
Based on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s evaluations and reports, Mexican gangs are responsible for about 26% of the total labs of methamphetamine production in the world, generating three-fourths of the methamphetamine consumed in the United States.
As the problems associated with methamphetamine use become more and more prevalent, law enforcement officials work to create and implement laws that deter non-users from ever trying methamphetamine, and to punish those engaging in the drug’s use and, more importantly, its production.
In the past, police officials could identify a meth lab with greater ease because of the toxic fumes associated with the production process. Now, with odor-free, and what is said to be cheaper and safer modes of production, busting a drug maker is much more difficult.
Attempts To Fight With Legislation
Laws restricting the purchase of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine halted the meth rate for a brief period of time, but those making meth worked around it and discovered ways to illegally import the medications in large amounts.
In 2004, Oklahoma was the first state to enact a law requiring pharmacies to keep cold medications behind the counter and to restrict the quantity allowed per purchase. Other states quickly followed suit.
In 2005, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act followed up with restrictions on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine purchases. The amount of the two compounds, plus phenylpropanolamine (another substance needed in the production process), manufactured to then be sold in drugstores and pharmacies became based on the estimated actual need for the drugs as medications for colds, coughs, allergies, and other ailments.
Daily sales limits and 30-day purchase limits were implemented under the act, officially put into action in 2006. The Drug Enforcement Administration is in charge of setting the limits, estimating useful need of the regulated medications, and enforcement of the act on a federal level.
The Combat Meth Act also included permission for the federal government to track the purchase of key meth-making ingredients, mainly targeting pseudoephedrine.
According to 2006 DEA reports, law enforcement officials raided 12,500 meth labs in the first year of the Combat Meth Epidemic Act.
While the number of raids, 12,500, shows a decrease from the 16,000 raids in 2004, the statistic indicates the effectiveness of the ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine regulation. With less drug availability, fewer meth labs are up and running. By limiting production officials hope to limit the number of people requiring time spent at drug rehab centers.
Costs Remain High For Increased Enforcement
The costs of maintaining this level of drug enforcement are astronomical. Time and money that would be spent on other aspects of law and drug enforcement are devoted specifically to meth regulation.
Crime associated with the drug’s manufacturing and selling, and medical consequences of the drug’s use, add high costs to drug enforcement units.
Our government also experiences high costs for meth addiction treatment. Many individuals unable to pay for treatment want to get clean, and since it is ultimately advantageous to have one less meth user on the streets, money is used to enroll meth addicts in treatment at no cost to them.
Our environment also reaps costs from production. Chemicals are released into the ground and the air that have been linked to cancer. The DEA and government agencies spend thousands of dollars per meth lab cleanup. For every pound that’s made, there are 5 to 7 pounds of residual toxic waste.
If one lab makes just 10 pounds of meth per cook, which represents the low end of the estimated production per lab, then there are 50 to 70 pounds of toxins someone needs to clean up.
With 12,500 to 16,000 meth lab raids each year, and a minimum of 50 pounds of toxic waste per cook, it is no wonder that the DEA has expressed a concern in the skyrocketing costs for enforcing meth laws.