Methamphetamine and the

The first time I did meth was two summers ago, before a country-music festival. Then I started doing it every day. The first few months, I would get really high and loved it. Then you build up a tolerance, and it never feels the same. I was constantly chasing that early high.

I was getting skinnier, and I loved that. I like to eat and I'm lazy. Meth was a fast way to lose weight. I lost my appetite; food just doesn't taste good when you're on meth. People asked, "What are you doing?" and I was like, "Oh, I'm watching what I eat." My parents noticed, especially my mom. She had to buy me new clothes because nothing fit me. I went from 152 to just 112 pounds, and from a size 13 to a size 2. My face looked sunken, and I had dark circles under my eyes.

I moved in with my boyfriend, and I wanted to do meth all the time. I smoked, snorted, and ate it. Sometimes it made me throw up. I was arrested and charged with theft for (allegedly) stealing a ring. I was in jail for several days. I cried the whole time. My parents said the only way they'd get me out of jail was if I went to rehab. So I went. I was there for six weeks, and I met so many great people. The withdrawal was hard because there's nothing to help you through it. I couldn't sleep, and the meth cravings were really bad. But talking about it in therapy helped. It's awesome to work on myself and finally find out who I am.

Methamphetamine without a prescription is illegal to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute. Although the number of people of all ages trying meth in their lifetime is on the rise, teen meth use has been on the decline in the past few years. In comparison to marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine, the numbers of Americans who use meth is quite low.19, 34, 35, 49 Yet, the irreversible effects from meth addiction, the destruction of property and lives in meth explosions, and the rising number of meth addicts who are incarcerated has captured the attention of the nation's public.

The controversial "war on drugs" has been ongoing in the United States for more than 36 years. Its success is hotly debated. Since its inception, local, state, and federal governments have attempted to control and reduce teen drug use through a variety of legal policies and procedures. Yet despite these efforts, and harsh legal consequences, including jail time and heavy monetary fines, teens and adults continue to make, use, and/or deal methamphetamine.


Does the supply and availability of meth drive demand for the drug, or does the demand for meth create willing suppliers, eager to capture their share of the very profitable illegal drug market? The ability to make meth from ordinary, cheap, and easy-to-purchase products is a major reason that meth is such a lucrative, illegal enterprise, and drives the incentive to supply the drug. The stimulating effects and addictive cravings for meth drive demand.

Current U.S. drug policy attempts to reduce both sides of this supply and demand equation. The 2007 budget for the National Drug Control Strategy, as requested by President George W. Bush, supports three key priorities. The first two aim to decrease demand for drugs, incuding meth, and the third focuses on curtailing supply. Priority I is intended to prevent drug use before it starts. Educational and community programs are designed to encourage young people to reject using drugs. Priority II is designed to heal the country's drug abusers and addicts by ensuring that treatment is accessible to all who need it. Priority III seeks to disrupt the drug market by targeting individuals and organizations that profit from illegal drug trafficking.50

The drug budget has consistently increased over the past four years. The requested budget for 2007 is $12.7 billion. The budget for 2004 was $12.1 billion; for 2005 it was $12.2 billion; and for 2006 it is $12.5 billion.50

There are specific programs that focus on meth in the budget's programs. One program continues the scientific work of the Methamphetamine Clinical Trials Group, which conducts clinical trials of promising medications to treat meth addiction. Another is called COPS, or Community-Oriented Policing Services. This program gives state and local police funding to assist with cleaning up meth labs. The President also increased the budget for the multicultural National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign to continue its antidrug message aimed at youth and their parents.41, 50

Budgets have also been increased for supply-reduction programs such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) Drug Flow Prevention program, designed to disrupt the flow of drugs, money, and chemicals used by major drug trafficking organizations to manufacture and sell meth and other drugs. Enhanced patrols along trafficking routes to the United States and expanded security forces along U.S. borders (mainly in the Southwest) are also included in the budget.50

Enforcing drug trafficking laws in the United States is extremely challenging. According to the U.S. Customs Service, each year 60 million people enter the United States on more than 675,000 commercial and private flights. Another 6 million arrive by sea and 370 million by land. More than 90,000 merchant and passenger ships dock at U.S. ports carrying more than 9 million shipping containers and 400 million tons of cargo. In addition, 116 million vehicles cross the U.S. borders from Canada and Mexico. In the midst of this enormous influx, traffickers conceal drug shipments that are later distributed throughout the United States. Pseudoephedrine, for

Figure 8.1 U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol a road that runs along the international border with Mexico east of Columbus, New Mexico. Large quantities of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs are produced in Mexico and then smuggled across the border for sale in the United States. © Leslie Hoffman/AP Images

Figure 8.1 U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol a road that runs along the international border with Mexico east of Columbus, New Mexico. Large quantities of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs are produced in Mexico and then smuggled across the border for sale in the United States. © Leslie Hoffman/AP Images example, has been smuggled into the United States by couriers via commercial airlines or tractor-trailers crossing the borders from Canada.11


The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a division of the federal government, is to enforce the drug laws of the United States. The DEA is a principal force in reducing the supply, and therefore the availability, of methamphetamine and other drugs. The DEA was established in 1973 under the U.S. Department of Justice and is responsible for enforcing the guidelines of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.23

This act provides the legal foundation for today's national drug policy. It places "controlled substances"—drugs that are regulated under existing federal law—into one of five schedules. Scheduled drugs are categorized by their distinguishing chemical properties, including their potential for abuse and their medical usefulness. Schedule I categorizes the most dangerous drugs that have no recognized medical use, while Schedule V classifies the least dangerous drugs as a group.

In legal terms, any use, possession, manufacture, or distribution of the substances controlled in Schedules I through V of the Controlled Substances Act is considered drug abuse and is subject to state and federal penalties.23

Under the Controlled Substances Act, meth is categorized as a Schedule II drug (along with amphetamines, cocaine, and morphine). Schedule II drugs are defined as: 1) drugs with a high potential for abuse, 2) drugs that, when abused, may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence, and 3) drugs that have an accepted medical use with severe restrictions. These drugs are only available legally with a prescription, and are closely monitored by the DEA.11


Federal and state officials have enacted laws since 1970 to target three main areas of meth manufacture: regulation and restriction of precursor chemicals and equipment used to make meth, finding and shutting down illegal labs, and breaking up the organized drug syndicates that manufacture and distribute meth.12

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