For the last decade, opioid addiction has been the main concern of United States agencies, and officially declared a public health emergency in 2017. As federal funding for recovery programs, educational indicatives for medical professionals and treatment medication continues to combat opioid addiction, one drug has slipped under the radar: methamphetamine.
While attention largely lies on the national opioid crisis, meth has made its deadly comeback. In the 2000s, a flood of legislation sought to eliminate meth production in the U.S., as some states, like Oregon and Mississippi, went so far as to require a prescription for the over-the-counter decongestant and crucial meth ingredient, pseudoephedrine. In 2005, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Act, which limited pseudoephedrine sales to 7.5 grams per customer in a 30-day period, and required pharmacies to track purchases. Since then, domestic methamphetamine production has dropped drastically, and so have national stories of meth lab explosions and raids. The reduction of supply however, did not affect the huge demand.
While much more difficult to produce in the United States, since 2010, the number of crystal meth seizures by U.S. border agents have multiplied twentyfold (the only drug to do so, as most have remained stagnant), as production continues to increase in Mexican cartel run “superlabs,” which create hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine daily. At the border of southern California, 21,747 pounds of meth were seized in 2016, ten times of that taken a decade before. As such, today more meth is available on the streets than ever before. These superlabs have also lowered the price of methamphetamine by over 80 percent according to undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents soliciting sales. With pressure from the cartels to unload more crystal meth, and a sharply increasing supply, dealers are practically giving away their product.
This readily available and highly pure meth has led to another national health crisis. In a decade alone, from 2005 to 2015, the number of deaths due to meth reported by the Center of Disease Control more than doubled. In southern states like Oklahoma, where meth from Mexico can easily permeate the market, methamphetamine reigns supreme as the number one cause of drug-related deaths. These startling statistics suggest that meth, while underrepresented in the media should actually be of the highest concern to public health officials.
Benjamin Popp is a third-year student double majoring in history and Latin with minors in civic and professional leadership and anthropology. BP863365@wcupa.edu