The Associated Press recently released a report that methamphetamine lab seizures this year have decreased notably from last year in states that usually have a lot of that activity. However, experts that AP interviewed say that the demand for meth is no lower and that Mexican drug cartels are importing more meth.

The Government wants to decrease the consumption of harmful substances and tries to do so by making them harder to get. Regarding meth, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 restricted the sales of pseudoephedrine (at the time, the active ingredient in the over-the-counter decongestant Sudafed®) to prevent people from mixing homemade meth. After that, seizures of meth labs dropped to a low point in 2007 and then began to climb again in the Midwest and South (see GAO study) as people found new ways of getting around the restrictions — until this year, as the AP report discloses.

When the Government tries to restrict the supply of something, and the demand remains steady, then people just go to greater lengths to get the substance. In this case, we have replaced the evils associated with homemade meth labs with the arguably greater evils associated with the Mexican drug cartels. The cartels are manufacturing meth in greater quantities and higher purity than in the past, so that now, with restrictions in the U.S., it is easier for users to buy imported meth than to make it themselves. Instead of putting more resources towards addressing the root problem of addiction, Government actions restricting the manufacturing of meth have raised the stakes and thus involved more violent and desperate people.

Thus, once again, this tactic in the “War on Drugs” is shown to be a failure in that it has made matters worse instead of better. Perhaps it is time for policy-makers to seriously consider implementing other approaches to curtailing drug use.

(Sudafed is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson.)


Comments are closed.