Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Meth mania: Coming to a TV near you

The Drug Czar's office and Partnership for a Drug-Free America recently announced the launch of a series of new anti-meth TV ads. The spots are flashy and raw, and were made by a number of different ad firms on a pro bono basis.
The ad campaign combines real-life stories of people impacted by methamphetamine with scenarios that depict the unique secondhand threat meth poses to communities at large. The campaign's two main themes, "So, Who Has the Drug Problem Now?" and "End Meth in Your Town" challenge individuals to learn more about the threats meth poses to both their families and their communities.
The "So, Who Has the Drug Problem Now" ads actually inadvertently make the case for ending prohibition. The spots show how fumes from clandestine meth labs can seep into other people's apartments. But, of course, the ads don't explicitly say that it is the prohibition regime we live under that forces people to cook meth in their homes using dangerous chemicals because they can't buy their psychoactive chemical of choice from a store under a controlled and regulated system.

This reminds me of how the "drug use = terror" ads from a few years back highlighted how drug prohibition funds terrorism.

I know all of us reading this blog are able to understand the connection between the harms these ads highlight and drug prohibition, but I wonder how much of the general viewing public gets it. What do you think?

The anti-meth ads will also run in Atlanta, Austin, Cedar Rapids, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Miami, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Minneapolis, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Savannah, and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
The Drug Czar's cronies are traveling to these cities and holding press conferences to announce the ads. If you live in or near one of these cities, and want to push back against the drug warriors' lies, get in touch with us.


Ben said...

Prohibition doesn't "force" anyone to do anything. Meth cooks and abusers do so of their own free will.

It's not fair for those who adhere to our laws against drug use and manufacture to be put in dangerous situations because someone wants to get high or make "easy money".

Tom Angell said...

You're right, Ben. It's not fair that people are put in danger because of other people's habits. But its the disastrous policy of drug prohibition that unecessarily puts them in the line of fire.

In taking a look at your blog,, I noticed that you've archived loads of articles about meth and the negative consequences associated with its consumption and manufacture.

With all this reading material, you should know better than to believe the lie that drug prohibition is doing anything to make people's lives any better, regardless of whether or not they use or cook meth.

How many more people have to be locked up, how many more billions of dollars have to be dumped down the drain, how many more innocent collateral damage victims have to get hurt, before you realize that prohibition causes harm instead of prevents it?

Ross Wilson said...

I generally agree with Tom on these issues, but it's hard for me to imagine "a controlled and regulated system" of distributing meth. I mean, what company is going to want to be the meth distributor and would the public really accept that? It's a pretty nasty drug, and though I think people have the right to do what they want with their own bodies, I often find myself getting very upset with tobacco companies for marketing a dangerous and addictive product that, if used as intended, WILL harm you. I think this is a tough issue that might not be solved by lifting prohibition (though it wouldn't be exacerbated either.) Other harms would be alleviated (jail time, gangs, etc.) but how do you deal with people who really want to use meth? Do you allow them to make it at home in dangerous and environmentally harmful way? Do you encourage free-market entrepreneurs to produce and market meth?

I think it should be illegal to make meth in a way that puts others at risk. That's why we have public health codes and environmental regulations. But I also don't think we should lock people up for even the ill-advised things they do to their own bodies.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe anyone would want to tax and regulate meth. It's a crazy concept. I agree with Ben and Ross. Obviously, whoever runs this blog is out of touch with reality and doesn't live in a town or city that has been ravaged by this terrible drug.

Tom Angell said...

If anyone took my comments to mean that I think ending prohibtion is a silver bullet solution to our nation's drug abuse problems, they're wrong. If so, I apologize. That's most certainly not what I meant.

The issue of drug abuse is an extremely complex one and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problems that stem from it.

However, as long as criminals control drug manufacturing and distribution, as long as addicited people are stigmatized, and as long as people who use any kind of psychoactive chemical face the threat of being locked up in jail for doing so, we will make no headway in beginning to solve these complex and important problems.

So, let us use this forum to discuss how we can more sensibly deal with these problems.

Clearly, prohibition isn't the way, but do we really want to move to a laissez-faire system of drug production and distribution where anyone can do whatever they want, do we want a socialized system where the government produces and doles out drugs, or is there something in between that would work better than what we have now?

I, for one, certainly won't pretend to know the answer.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I really can't allow this hysteria around methamphetamine to go unanswered. Yes, meth has potential for abuse, all drugs do, perhaps it has a very high potential for abuse. But make no mistake about it, there are many people who use methamphetamine recreationally and responsibly and who never get addicted or strung out.

The current media hysteria around meth is much closer to previous hysterias around crack in the 1980s or ecstasy in the mid-1990s. That is to say, not only is it blown way out of proportion, making suburban Moms (and even a few drug policy reform professionals who ought to know better) very afraid of a SUBSTANCE and its evil effects on people whereby it steals their souls and makes them into thoughtless zombies.

Sound familiar? That's because it's the same message we hear about every drug, every time it's the new media darling and scary drug du jour. Certainly meth is addicting and its illicit manufacture has environmental consequences, to say the least.

But meth is one amphetamine among many, and it has a place in treatment and dare I say it, in recreational use as well. Those that want to use amphetamines can and should get them provided from a pharmacy with a prescription.

But that's not the point and never will be what's important for reformers. (And to my anonymous compatriot commenter, most drug reformers live in or come from places where meth use occurs frequently, but there's a lot else that goes on as well. We focus on the jobs we have, the meth industry isn't the only employer in our area.)

What matters is that yesterday, today and tomorrow people use meth, whether it's legal or not, and as a society we ought to have an obligation to ourselves and to others around us to make sure that drug users (even the ones who use drugs we don't like) are able to get the drugs they need, while minimizing the harms to themselves, their families and their communities.

It's the "lock 'em up, 'cause I can't think of anything else to do with them" crowd that is out of touch with reality.

daksya said...

Instructive reading on this topic is the overview of the Swedish Drug Control System.

I will quote extensively from that document.
Amphetamines were introduced in Sweden by the pharmaceutical industry in 1938. These central stimulants were being sold over the counter under the brand names Benzedrine and Phenedrine. At the time, the media launched them as slimming pills and stimulants.

In the following years, the substance became increasingly popular; large segments of the population had tried amphetamine.
Surveys at the time showed that 70% to 80% of the interviewed students
had tried amphetamine. To curb increased use, amphetamine was put on prescription in 1939. The immediate effect was that the sales figures were constant for one year, but increased again in the 1940s.

During the early 1940s, the total number of tablets dispensed increased gradually, up to six million in 1942. Within a period of five years, from 1938 to 1943, the total sales had increased twenty-fold. Because of the
negative effects and the risks of uncontrolled use, a warning was issued by the National Medical Board in 1943, which led to a sharp decline in amphetamine use. A year later, in 1944, the Medical Board submitted stricter regulations for the prescription of amphetamine, which in practice meant the substances were treated in (almost) the same way as narcotics. However, these stricter rules did not apply when it came to imports, exports, production, and possession.

The use of central stimulants gradually increased; in 1959 the total registered sale of central stimulants amounted to 33.2 million doses.

The increase in use of stimulant drugs led to the inclusion of central stimulants in the National Narcotic Drug Act. Amphetamines were put on the list in 1958 the period from the end of the war until 1965 the partition of different types of amphetamine use underwent important changes. In the beginning, consumption was characterised by a widespread (occasional and regular) use, but a very limited number of addicts. In later periods one could observe a decreasing number of occasional
and regular users on the one hand, but a growing number of dependant
users on the other hand.


About the change in type of consumption, users are divided into five categories:
Occasional: less than 5 times a year
Experimental: Upto twice a month
Regular: 2-3 times a week
A: Upto 10 tablets daily
Severe Abuser: Abuser++

Here's the relevant numbers:

O: 133,000
E: 60,000
R: 4,000
A: 3,000
S: 200

O: 175,000-225,000
E: 75,000-125,000
R: 7,500-12,500
A: 2,000-3,000
S: 500-1,000

O: 75,000-125,000
E: 40,000-60,000
R: 7,500-12,500
A: 2,000-3,000
S: 750-1,250

O: 40,000-60,000
E: 20,000-30,000
R: 12,500-17,500
A: 2,225-3,225
S: 1,000-1,500

What the pattern underscores is that restrictive policies stop casual users, not the destructive ones. From a public-health perspective, prohibition is ineffective.