The Flow (and Ebb) of Meth-Tainted Urine

An A.P. story notes a recent reduction in methamphetamine use detected by workplace drug testing and attributes it to the federal crackdown on pseudoephedrine, a meth precursor:

Methamphetamine use continued to decline in nearly every part of the country last year as the government sharpened its crackdown on precursor chemicals used to make the illegal drug.

Overall, the number of workplace employees who tested positive for meth dropped 22 percent last year, according to a study released Wednesday by New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics Inc., the nation's largest drug-testing company. Meth use in the Northeast, however, remained steady.

At the same time, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a report showing the number of illegal meth lab seizures plunged 31 percent last year, from 7,347 to 5,080.

White House drug policy director John Walters said laws restricting the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to cook meth, and efforts to thwart drug trafficking from Mexico have disrupted the market for meth...

As the number of meth labs began shrinking in the United States, they have been replaced by "superlabs" in Mexico and Mexican-run labs in some U.S. border states. DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart said interdiction efforts, coupled with U.S. pressure on the Mexican government to reduce imports of pseudoephedrine into that country, have helped cut down meth trafficking across the border.

The thing is, methamphetamine use, as measured by Quest's data, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and the Monitoring the Future Study, has been declining at least since 2004. The Combat Meth Act, which restricted retail access to pseudoephedrine and made it such a hassle to buy effective cold and allergy remedies, did not become law until March 2006 and did not take full effect until September 2006. Several states passed their own laws restricting pseudoephedrine before Congress acted. But the only effect on the methamphetamine supply seemed to be a shift from mom-and-pop domestic producers to those Mexican superlabs. In January 2006, for example, The New York Times reported that "the drop in home-cooked methamphetamine has been met by a new flood of crystal methamphetamine coming largely from Mexico." That May, CBS News noted the same phenomenon. Since then, maybe interdiction and pressure on the Mexican government has, as John Walters claims, made a dent in the foreign supply. But the Quest data do not show that.

In fact, a closer look at the national survey data indicates that the decline in meth use probably started around 2000, years before the states passed their anti-pseudoephedrine laws. In the Monitoring the Future Study, both lifetime and past-year meth use by high school seniors fell steadily from 1999 through 2003. Past-year use rose slightly in 2004 before resuming the downward trend. The trend for past-month use was similar, with a more gradual decline. In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, past-year and past-month meth use have been pretty much flat since the survey began in 2002. Lifetime use fell steadily from then until 2006 (the most recent year for which data are available), when it went up.

We are probably seeing the usual flow and ebb of drug fashions, in which a drug gains popularity and then loses it after enough people run into problems with it to discourage others. It's doubtful that the government's recent supply control effort has had much of an impact on these trends, and it certainly can't be credited with reductions in drug use that predated it.

In the March issue of reason, Greg Beato wondered how Americans learned to stop worrying and love workplace drug testing. Back in 2002, I took a deeper look at the subject.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • adrian||

    Crack is Whack!

  • Episiarch||

    Meth use in the Northeast, however, remained steady.

    We win!

  • javier||

    what are these numbers from?? They give a drug survey out to highschoolers and when I was in highschool everybody just said they did crack, meth and heroin 5 times a day

  • ||

    The workplace drop may also be due to people being smarter about beating the tests. Meth burns out of your system very quickly, within a few days. If you exercise and drink a lot of water, quicker than that. If people are careful when they use and the tests are not very random, you are not going to catch many people. Drug tests sadly are such a part of modern life, I would imagine people have started to get better at beating them.

  • ||

    Anyone else really enjoying Breaking Bad? I'm a regular lurker and have been surprised that no one (to my knowledge) has even mentioned this show.

    If you haven't heard of the show it's on AMC and chronicles (with extremely dark humor) the life of a high school chemisty teacher who starts cooking meth to pay for his chemotherapy. Naturally his brother in law is a DEA agent and the WOD subtext of the show is great. The series begins again this sunday night.

  • Russ 2000||

    I find it funny that there's a crackdown on substances that aren't illegal.

  • ||

    bob,

    Agreed. If you had told me a year ago that the two best dramas on television would be on AMC, I would have suspected that you were on Meth.

  • ||

    "The workplace drop may also be due to people being smarter about beating the tests. Meth burns out of your system very quickly, within a few days. If you exercise and drink a lot of water, quicker than that. If people are careful when they use and the tests are not very random, you are not going to catch many people. Drug tests sadly are such a part of modern life, I would imagine people have started to get better at beating them."

    Or avoiding the damn things all together. These companies feel the need to test their employees for illegal drugs, but they really never find but a few employees.

    Drug testing is a rather expensive and intrusive method of employee relations. Many of the people caught in these tests are the most reliable, honest hard working people you could meet, they just happen to smoke cannabis.

  • ||

    White House drug policy director John Walters said laws restricting the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to cook meth, and efforts to thwart drug trafficking from Mexico have disrupted the market for meth...



    In other news, the common cold has become even more common as people taking virtually useless phenylephrine to control their symptoms are more contagious than they would be were they taking pseudoephedrine.

  • Tym||

    Does it ever occur to them that meth is an amphetamine, and would likely improve your job performance, it's good enougth for fighter pilots.

  • ||

    Just say no to Drug Testing!

  • ||

    Now that crystal meth is the scourge to be eradicated, what's going to be the next bathtub gin of amphetamines?

    Diamond Meth?
    Platinum Meth?
    PLUTONIUM METH??
    Then the DHS can team up with the DEA and have a big plutonium party.

  • ||

    Also, Bob,
    that show "Breaking Bad" sounds like a redneckier "Weeds"

  • ||

    Haven't seen Weeds as I only have basic cable, but I've heard good things about it.

  • TrappedEastOfTheBigMuddy||

    Grrrrrrrr...

    Error bars, damnit! Error bars.

    Or bands, either will do, but those graphs are of ambiguous utility with error estimates.

    Come on, Thoreau. Back me up here, man.

    We have a moral obligation to fix the world's understanding of quantitative graphics.

    Or something.

  • TrappedEastOfTheBigMuddy||

    s/with error estimates/without error estimates/

  • T||

    We have a moral obligation to fix the world's understanding of quantitative graphics.

    Edward Tufte would agree.

  • ||

    Haven't seen Weeds as I only have basic cable, but I've heard good things about it.

    Meh. The first season or two were pretty good, but it went straight downhill after that.

  • ||

    I thought the last season was fantastic.
    Very unrealistic, but very entertaining anyway.
    The plot dealt with not only WOD, but city government/developer corruption.

  • ||

    Yeah, methamphetaine users are the most paranoid people on the face of the planet, but when it comes to voluntarily talking about their use, they open right up to people taking surveys. And you can always rely on kids to tell the truth about their drug use too, cause' kids always tell the truth about that, right?

    Last year, the DEA asked for $2.4 billion ($1.8 billion under the Salary and Expenses Account, $239 million under the Diversion Control Fee Account, and $389 million for OCDETF activities and other reimbursable agreements).

    Today (March 12th, 2008, they're requesting a total of $2.6 billion ($1.9 billion in the Salaries and Expenses Account, $244 million in the Diversion Control Fee Account, and $379 million for OCDETF investigation activities and other reimbursable agreements).

    If drug use is down, why do they need 200 million more this year? Oh that's right, because most people have the IQ of a table lamp and don't have the time nor the inclination to really review the facts.

    The obscenity that the "war on drugs" has become is precisely what the taxpayer deserves if they're going to continue to swallow the lies, distortions and spins the government continues to churn out. It's a disgrace

  • Neu Mejican||

    Anyone else really enjoying Breaking Bad?

    I tried to watch it given that I used to hang out with Meth dealers in Albuquerque (where it is set/flilmed) and figured seeing some of my old haunts on TV would be fun.


    It does get the fucked up vibe of Albuquerque's streets down at moments, but other wise...it is just too dull to watch, imho.

  • دردشة يمنية||

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement