Data: Meth Math

Prohibition has little to do with declining drug use


In March meth was back in the headlines, and this time the prognosis was cheerful: The nation's largest drug testing company, Quest, reported that the share of job applicants and employees testing positive for methamphetamine fell 22 percent between 2006 and 2007. At the same time, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a report highlighting a 31 percent decrease in the number of illegal meth lab seizures in the previous year. Drug czar John Walters boasted that restrictions on the sale of the meth precursor pseudoephedrine and crackdowns at the Mexican border had reduced meth use by restricting the supply and raising prices. "When we are able to put strategic pressure on the supply of these drugs," he declared, "what we're seeing is a direct effect for the better on the number of users."

There's a significant problem with that theory: A closer look at data on drug use from several sources, including Quest, shows that meth consumption had been declining for years before the feds swung into action. Decreases in usage is more likely due to the cyclical nature of drug fads than to the government's assault on domestic labs and Mexican traffickers.

NEXT: St. George Weeps

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  1. It’s a good thing my government doesn’t let us be consumed by dinosaurs anymore, or I’d be afraid to leave the house.

  2. I wonder how many people (seriously) were like, “I’m gonna get me some crystal meth. Oh, the price rose that high? I’m staying clean and sober.”

  3. Or maybe the tweakers stopped applying for jobs with pre-employment drug screens. The local sheriff and city PDs have cut back on the WODs because of federal money cutbacks of 80% if the news was accurate.
    Oh, and then there’s the locals that are cooks that enjoy some immunity for their willingness to be confidential informants. With that immunity, they have grown their business as the other folks got popped.
    I don’t see usage down in this area, just other factors having an effect on stats like the ones noted.

  4. Um, Whatsmeth?

  5. uh, its like that stuff that makes you horny

  6. whoa, cool. we should ,lke, give a hot chick some of it. heh heh. then we can score.

  7. Uh, huh huh huh

  8. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh

  9. Wait, we need to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. to keep out all of that foreign meth that is forcing local American meth cookers out of business. They took our jurbs!

  10. Uh, Anderson’s computer sucks. we cant like get any of the cool porno sites.

  11. hey butthead i found this cool porno in Stuart’s dad’s closet!

  12. huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh

  13. heh heh heh! boingoingoingoingoingoing!

  14. Dammit boys, what the hell are you doin’.
    Oh my God, they’re hwhackin’ on my keyboard!

  15. What to you get when you add weight loss and more energy?

    You do the meth!

  16. But Marcvs, we need to diversify our cooking population so our children can grow up exposed to different kinds of meth.

  17. ….declining methamphetamine use…..

    Hard to use meth from a crypt at the local cemetery.

  18. This fits right in line with many other trends that the Fed govt says were the result of their regulation. Glad to see reason highlights the analysis of the data rather than regurgitate what the gov’t claims, like so many other “news” outlets do. Example: Speed Limits and seat belt restrictions/requirements lead to the decrease in highway deaths – reality was that highway deaths were trending downward prior to these regulations.

  19. Hard to use meth from a crypt at the local cemetery.

    I wouldn’t be too sure. My guy says his shit will raise the dead.

  20. TWC,
    Please don’t tell me you are going to buy into the whole “You use (drug x) just one time and you are addicted for life,” bit.

    Meth users are, like consumers of your favored big bodied reds, a varied group. Some are casual users and some a bit more than casual. Look at that graph again, of the 8% of 12graders who had EVER used meth only 1/4 of them had used it within the last 30days.

    Unfortunately MTF does not record use on any less than a 30 day interval. I don’t know about you, but based on that criteria I am an alcoholic because I have a glass of wine or a beer at least once a week!

    Of course, if that was just a set up for RC Dean’s joke then accept my apologies.

  21. Oh, and now is as good a time as any to repost a link to my favorite Drug War Statistics site. Mr. Bennett takes the ONDCP’s own numbers and puts them into graphical form for you. Whenever Johnny P. trots out some new “scary” numbers, check Mr. Bennett’s site for the real scoop.

  22. Meth sucks.
    Every generation has to learn it all over.
    Use will go up in ~10 years, spike, then decline.
    Bikers will still be involved in the business.

  23. I have it on good authority that prohibition does contribute to declining use.

  24. You should have shown us your closer look at the data, since just showing 12th grade meth use doesn’t say much (or much definitive) about overall meth use rates.

  25. I have met plenty of older potheads, somehow they can survive to old age, in spite of what the prohibitionists may say to the contrary.

    However, I have never met an old meth head -speed freak. Most of the ones I knew / know are less than 30 years old, in prison or dead.

    Speed is a helluva drug, it can make a 20 year old look 50 or 60 in a couple of years of continuous use. Older, more experienced and responsible drug users give meth a wide berth and most don’t use it anymore because they know it is not a safe drug.

    I personally used meth while I was in college. It was a great high, but you had to keep up the buzz with more meth or you would crash and feel awful afterwards, didn’t sleep or eat right for a couple of days. I haven’t used meth in 15 years.

    /meth user – dealers are the most unstable and heavily armed people I have ever met

    //the cannabis dealers I know don’t answer the door with a pistol in their waistband and a shotgun behind the door

  26. //the cannabis dealers I know don’t answer the door with a pistol in their waistband and a shotgun behind the door

    It’s ’cause they forgot where they put it.

  27. Standard Libertarian Disclaimer: I don’t approve of the War on Drugs.

    Now that’s out of the way,
    I agree w/ zig zag and Tyrone Biggums. Meth and crack are fucking disgusting drugs.

  28. I Am not a fan of prohibition, but…

    If you look at the decline of meth lab busts ( not just users) after prohibiting over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine-containing products – it is impressive.

    The toxic wastes from the labs are a huge hazard and the law (in oregon) had a major impact. while not impinging on my freedom to a significant degree.

    one of the few reasonable laws passed lately.

  29. This being reason magazine I thought someone might have actually seen some of the reporting done in Oregon. The use of meth (number of addicts) has a direct correlation with the purity of the precursor chemicals imported to the US. I’m all about free markets and a big hater of big government but when you see the data there is no denial.

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