Meth Madness


We're learning that meth does indeed cause insanity—among members of the press. Jack Shafer has yet another smart piece on the moral panic epidemic, and what the press didn't learn from the crack craze.

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  1. Seems to me they learned all they needed to. Easy stories, funds for pet projects, an enemy to justify whatever you want. It’s a win-win-win situation.

  2. Captain Awesome,

    You should follow the link. Yes, Shafer calls bullshit on the lazy/formulaic stories pumped out by the major dailies and weeklies, but he also points to the really superb work done by the Oregonian. Steve Suo’s public response to Slate, Reason, and others suggests that there is real work to be done covering a real “unnecessary epidemic.”


  3. Meth has always had a bad name. It was even scorned by the drug snaffling culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    LOL at Woodward’s associates. They were the same genre of people who privately insisted that snorting coke was not addictive and that it was impossible to overdose on coke. So yes, the insanity does swing both ways.

  4. Anon, that’s a good response, thanks.

  5. ??let me extend my strongly worded advice to all: Don’t use this drug. Don’t, don’t, don’t. Don’t.?

    I?m sorry. I know my feet are still peddling long after the cliff has fallen away in my zeal over the war on the war on drugs. I?m am just exasperated at how Every, Single, Instance, of someone calling bullshit on the WOD has to include that disclaimer. We need journalists who will tell the WHOLE truth. That many people improve the quality of their lives with responsible drug use, even drugs like meth.

  6. Warren,

    No, they don’t. Especially with meth.

  7. Warren: while I support the right of people to choose what to do with (or to) their bodies, I find your contention that narcotics improve the quality of life, well, a tad implausible. I would love to hear an example of how meth use enriched anyone’s life other than to absolve them of pesky constraints like sleeping, parenting and retaining subcutaneous fat.

  8. I had a college roommate who found crystal meth indespensible for those long, late-night study sessions. His grades weren’t too bad, either.

  9. Warren,

    I believe Shafer puts in a disclaimer because he really believes you shouldn’t use meth. The point of his article is not to suggest that meth is good or bad for you, but that the media coverage of meth is lazy, uninformative, and unnecessarily sensationalist. Once again, he points to the Oregonian series as an example of good journalism about meth. And the Oregonian series certainly suggests that meth is bad for you and bad for your community. Now I suppose that if Shafer disagrees with that conclusion, then his disclaimer really would be just for ass-covering purposes. But absent evidence of that I think he just wants to clarify that his story is a piece of media criticism, not a piece of domestic policy criticism.


  10. I’m looking forward to Senator Santorum making a public statement about methamphetamine’s in his home state. Then we can get the H&R post “A Frothy Meth in Pennsylvania.”

  11. What about all those poor 80s kids that were Hooked on Phonics?

  12. They’re probably snorting meth off of a Speak ‘n’ Spell.

  13. Godfrey: I find your contention that narcotics improve the quality of life, well, a tad implausible.

    Since when is meth a narcotic?

    So I suppose, according to you, Desoxyn, Ritalin and Adderall should be banned alongwith many painkillers which ARE narcotics.

    Also to suggest that controlled meth use is not possible, is just the result of blinders and failure overgeneralization. What’s true is that smoked, snorted and injected meth is highly addictive and vicious on the body in the long-term, but oral meth can be used controlled. The trick is to use it episodically, not a general lifestyle supplement. And I know people who can do that.

  14. Godfrey,
    I dont think drug use is a good thing for the most part either, however, at least from what I have seen, stimulant use is self-limiting in that most people cut back or stop when the side effects become too great. Someone who is inclined to go to work and pay their bills can still do so on these drugs, you just have to cut back when the side effects set in. As far as the notion of ‘crackheads’ and winos, well, they arent going away no matter what the law is.

  15. i know two people who died from meth during the past twelve months…i didn’t know them well, i don’t hang out with that crowd. i support legalization, but i say “tough shit” if you’re stupid enough to do drugs and you die from massive heart failure as a result. that should be the libertarian position, not this veiled “drugs really aren’t that bad” bullshit.

  16. I’d say, jimmy that it’s not that drugs are bad, but that some people are stupid.

  17. Some people get fat, get adult onset diabetes, die of heart attacks, etc. Doesn’t make food bad.

    On the other hand, as for meth, I have a hard time believing that something made out of Drano or worse is “good” for you, but like most things, it can probably be done in moderation without too much harm. On the other hand, the only reason meth exists is because of restictions on safer forms of the drug (like mass produced, quality-controlled pills, such as those our Air Force pilots use). So arguing the pros and cons of meth is like discussing the merits of bathtub gin– it misses the forest for the trees.

  18. Well-said, Jeff.

    Meth made my life better for a time, but not in the way you might think. When I was younger, my room mate and his girlfriend were meth-users. When they were tweaking, they would clean the apartment spotless. Looking back, if I had only found a way to harness their pure tweak-energy, I could have made enough money to retire.

  19. Remove the street impurities from meth and its not all that bad for you. Produce it in a controlled lab, no explosions.

    There are many reasons why Meth is bad for you, but its not entirely the drug itself that is bad. Backwoods distilleries produced terrible alcohol during prohibition that led to many deaths as a result of alcohol poisoning or toxicity from impurities. Alcohol these days, where too much can be bad, the majority of people drink it in moderation and it does enhance the quality of life for many.

    In 2003, 17 states treated more people for methamphetamine abuse than for cocaine or heroin. (See Treatment Episode Data Set from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.) These 17 included California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and every other western state but Alaska and New Mexico. These states, where meth abuse is entrenched, are home to roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population.

    In the remaining 34 states and Washington, D.C., treatment admissions rose by an average of 200 percent from 1999 to 2003. The total number of people in treatment for meth nationally almost doubled during the period, from 73,000 to 136,000. By comparison, the number of cocaine treatment cases rose by 2 percent, to 251,000.

    I think its interesting to note that these statistics seem to run parallel with the tech bubble burst and the resulting economic slowdown. I knew many programmers who dabbled in coke and meth so they could work a couple days without sleep on a project. One of them, when they lost their job, starting hitting the coke harder. Another, could no longer afford it and seeked out treatment to get over a minor addiction. Of course these examples are not scientific in any means, but I would be curious to know if there is a correlation. The “crack epidemic” of the 90’s also seemed to mirror the economic slump of the late 80’s and early 90’s.

  20. jimmy,

    It should be pointed out that you’re separating the effects of drug use on the user from the effects of drug use on a community, via crime.


  21. We all make jokes about speed and clean apartments but true tweakers cannot focus long enough to finish the job.

    You might see me as falling into the trap of confusing the addictive personality with the norm but I’m gonna tell you what (a complete sentence in Alabama)….

    Meth is bad shit. Pure or impure, that is a nasty monkey to have on your back. And that’s why the drug was shunned by the hippies and the coked-out disco freaks of the late ’70’s. It does give you acne, it does make your teeth rot out, it does give you hallucinations. It does keep you awake until you crash three days later. It does give you sores and makes you stink. Say whatever you want about it but you can spot a tweaker from a hundred yards away and there are thousands of them sutter-walking in all the iffy neighborhoods.

    Worst thing is that they make all that crap right here in Riverside County, or at least 90% of it. That means you got the gangs, the bikers, and the meth-heads plus the cops…and you can do the math I ‘spose.

    Disclaimer: I don’t think drugs should be illegal. And, if you use clean meth or its derivatives you’re better off. But meth is the corn likker of illegal drugs dude.

  22. Am I the only one who thought the Oregonian claim that 50 percent of the state’s foster kids are there because their parents us meth sounded like bullshit on its face? I might buy that, inter alia, that many had parents who used meth, but I detect a little steam coming off that one…

  23. Jeff,

    That’s what I found interesting about the Oregonian piece. They point out that most meth is not Drano — it’s produced in industrial quantities, with industrial ephedrine (at least when that was available). This suggests that whatever bad reputation meth has earned (via the Wine Commonsewer’s comments) was earned when it was a (relatively speaking) high grade product.


    I haven’t seen that statistic yet. Is there somewhere in the report where they explicitly break down how they assessed meth impact?


  24. It seems most of the commenters drove right by the most important implication of the story.

    There is no hope of having an honest public discussion on substance abuse let alone any hope of drug policy reform as long as the media uses the breathless over-hyped meth mouth / crack baby / cough syrup abusing kids / template for their reporting.

  25. What about all those poor 80s kids that were Hooked on Phonics?

    They are all jung-keez now.

  26. Squirrel in the server room collapsed again.

  27. We all make jokes about speed and clean apartments but true tweakers cannot focus long enough to finish the job.

    Good po

  28. Sorry if that last item posted twice. I swear this is true: I actually dozed off while the comment was posting and leaned on the mouse and it clicked while the cursor was on the “post” button. (I pulled an all-nighter last night.)

  29. Daksya: perhaps “narcotic” was a poor word choice. But you didn’t address my real point; how can meth possibly enrich someone’s life?

    Phillip Conti seems to have tried to address it, but I don’t buy the idea that somebody who is snorting meth so they can work longer hours to pay their bills is increasing the quality of their life.

  30. Godfrey: ‘enrich’ is a strong word; ‘useful’ is better. Stimulants are routinely used for ADHD, and even electively by students, truck drivers and other people. And the utility derived may ultimately enrich one’s life. I think you’re overfocusing on meth as an euphoriant.

  31. The show I saw on A&E the othe rnight about meth was the exact same show they had in the 80 and 90 just switch the word meth with crack and prior to that coke and LSD. They then went after the same lines of ohhh the children and oh the people ruining their lives. Guess what folks if your destined to ruin your life you will find a substance to do it with regardless of legel or illegal status Jack Daniels anyone? Oh but Jack had never ruined a single life or torn a single family apart right? They had a segment about a kid cooking meth and his cooker blew up blinding him etc.. Had they had TV back in the days of alcohol prohibition they could have had the same sad stories.. how many people were killed as a result of their alcohol stil blowing up or made bad alcohol that blinded people or killed them.. How many people are injured from stils these days? I would venture to guess 0 and why because its not illegal. Perhaps our politicians should head over to the library and study some history. I know a lot of them claim to be scholars of history etc but they sure do allow history to repeat itself over and over anyway. Insanity – performing the same actions over and over and hoping for a different result.. Worked well so far hasn’t it? 😉

    As someone pointed out in another thread a few days ago. Not until all the old fuckers like Ted kennedy are out will we see common sense reform. They can not admit they have incarcerated millions for a foolish law and spent billions to do it year in and year out only to fail year in and year out. Plus what jobs will the cops DEA etc take afterwards. I would recommend they become proctologists since they are so well trained being a pain in the ass and are full of shit which they gladly spray us all with in their propaganda!!!

    Whenever you are debating someone who drinks alcohol on the drug war issue and they are in favor of more laws or keeping things as they are ask them this. If Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Bush passed a law tomorrow outlawing alcohol AGAIN (I know its funny to even think a drunk like Ted would do such a thing) would they then immediately go to their fridge and bar and pour out all their bottles? I asked my dad that very question when debating drug law with him and it shut him up real quick.

    For anyone that drinks socially or in moderation at home to say its impossible for someone else to smoke pot or whatever in moderation and with social conscience is absurd and they should be called on it.. So when they go on about it being legal ask them again if suddenly it was not would they trash their stash. And when they say they drink in moderation you should reply ” Oh so your an alcoholic then”. When they say no, say you must be if you use any at all since I am a drug addicted pot head stoner for using pot in the exact same fucking way!! Then proceed to call them the hipocritical double standard basturd they are!

    Free or Drug free.. We can’t have both. In order to be drug free all freedoms will have to be given up so that our nanny government can take that special care only they know how to administer.

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