portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary portland metro

drug war | media criticism | police / legal

Sensational Meth Headlines

Everybody else is doing it, so why can't we?

Portland's two main sources of toxic waste (The Oregonian & Tribune) have recently been locked into a heated competition to see who can print the most sensational headlines and ignorant stories about meth abuse in our city.

Finally fed up, I took the time to debunk the premise of the Tribune's most recent front page story on this subject.
**Disclaimer**

In some cases I may come across as being a promoter of the use of recreational drugs, but I am in NO WAY WHATSOEVER advocating or apologizing for meth abuse. Meth is garbage. People who use it need medical treatment, and IMO no sane reasonable person would EVER use meth for any reason.

**************

Meth tactic gets a replay
-------------------------

"Their goals: Slash local meth production, and ease growing pressure on resources in the fields of law enforcement, treatment and prevention.
And it worked: The amount of meth on the streets went down.
This year, right? Try 1987."

Continuing its long series of ignorant and misinformed pieces on Portland's "meth epidemic" the Portland Tribune brings us yet another avalanche of crap.

While normally I would start by nitpicking at a story's sophomoric writing and unsupportable sensationalist claims, I will cut to the chase here, and get right to the heart of why trying to suppress small time domestic meth manufacturing is a policy train wreck, which has and will continue to increase the harm that meth abuse causes to our society and its citizens.

The primary thrust of this article is that previous efforts to obstruct meth amphetamine manufacture by controlling/banning necessary precursors were effective in limiting meth production, and that the same actions, if repeated, will be successful again.

This is false.

To understand this, all one has to do is observe the evolution of the meth supply chain over the past couple decades. Historically meth has been a product that was produced domestically, mostly on the west cost, by small time cooks. Today major drug cartels rooted in Mexico produce the majority of the product, and the result is that overall production has increased dramatically.

How did this happen? Well, let's just say that capitalism is a bitch.

In a market place, if demand is fixed, and supply shrinks, the price of a product rises. So, if the government eliminates cheap and easy ways of producing drugs, and as a result, supply shrinks, then prices sky rocket. Given the unique nature of the product, higher prices do very little to deter consumption, so even relatively small reductions in supply can lead to dramatic spikes in prices.

The other primary effect of government efforts to prevent the production of drugs is that the capital investment required to produce them increases.

Now, combine sky rocketing costs, and the inability of small time producers to invest the capital necessary to adapt to the new production environment, and the result is a golden opportunity for well organized and well funded criminal organizations to move in and capture market share.

What happens when those organizations do move into the market?

With their superior organizational structures, larger capital investments, and subsequent economies of scale, they begin to produce more product faster and more efficiently than those who they replaced. Which is exactly where we are now.

To understand the proposals currently being floated to curb meth production, we have to take a quick second to discuss how meth is manufactured.

Currently there are two main ways that meth can be produced. The first - used by small time cooks - is a reaction of pseudo-ephedrine, red phosphorous, and iodine, which is relatively safe and easy, but only produces small (2-10g) batches. The second method - used by large professional producers - is a reaction with pseudo-ephedrine and anhydrous-ammonia, which is extremely dangerous and requires a laboratory environment to be done safely, but produces up to a pound (don't quote me on that) at a time.

The reason that the second method is so tough is that anhydrous-ammonia (a gas) is some nasty ass shit. A bit of annie in your face will instantly blind you, and if you happen to inhale, your lungs will be so badly burned that you'll either die, or sincerely wish that you had.

What makes it difficult for the government to legislate against meth manufacture is that all of the precursors have vital legitimate purposes, and are commonly available in consumer products. PE is used in cold medicine, red phosphorous is what the strike pads on match books are made of, and iodine can be reduced from OTC iodine tincture used to treat cuts. Anhydrous-ammonia is an essential component of fertilizer, and the occasional truck bomb.

Because PE is the substance that is actually turned into meth (the other chemicals are used to fuel the reaction), and because the pharmaceutical industry has finally created suitable replacements for it to put into OTC cold medicine, it is now the primary focus of legislative attempts to disrupt the meth supply chain.

Control/illegalization of pseudo-ephedrine is what the Tribune and many others are currently advocating as a remedy to our "meth crisis."

Why wouldn't this work, and what are the ways that it could make the deleterious affects of meth on our state even worse?

It is true that restricting and/or preventing access to PE would make it impossible for many small local cooks to produce meth, but the inevitable result of this (see: capitalism is a bitch) is that the street price of meth would dramatically increase, and due to the addictive nature of meth, the increased price would do very little to abate demand.

Meanwhile, while domestic cooks would be effectively shutdown, cartel manufacturers, rooted in Mexico, would barely miss a beat, and enjoy record profits and increased market dominance in the meantime.

Here's why.

Pseudo-ephedrine converts 1:1 to meth amphetamine. In other words, a gram of PE equals a gram of meth. At current market prices, meth is more expensive gram-for-gram that cocaine. What follows is that if a major cartel, which both produces meth and imports cocaine, faces a shortage of PE, they will simply import PE from Mexico, where it can be bought without any restrictions at all.

What would be the end result of a clampdown on pseudo-ephedrine in Oregon, or the U.S. in general?

A reasonable supposition would be that this will only lead to increased dominance of the meth trade by organized drug cartels, who will enjoy increased profits, which they will invest in more advanced production facilities and more comprehensive distribution networks, leading to even high levels of consumption and availability than ever before.

homepage: homepage: http://speedballing.blogspot.com


So what? 28.Jun.2005 12:08

Bison Boy

Seems to me that driving the price up is not entirely a bad thing. Increases in cigarette taxes are known to reduce tobacco sales. Nicotine is reputed to be more addicitve than most drugs and is legal besides. Seems to me the effect should work on meth as well. (I hope it does; I know too many people who have gotten seriously messed up on that crap.)

I think the poem on your site's front page indicates you might be a little bit biased on the subject:

"In this world, God is Drugs.
Scag is His Son.

God has sent His Son to the
earth to spread the Word.

The Word is that Scag is good.

Scag is our shepherd.
We shall always want."

I think you're just mad about the price going up.

Bison Boy is right! 28.Jun.2005 13:37

peace pop

Unfortunately, you didn't say much. You really need to expand your logic to make us understand your point. The last thing I want to do is side with the Oregonian, but I must say all you need to do is walk down the streets of downtown Portland to see they are not sensationalizing at all. It's a fact that meth is a major problem here in Portland. I work in social services and we have seen a surge in children being abandon because of their parents drug addiction. You have not put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

meth and elder abuse 28.Jun.2005 13:56

Jane

I also work in social services with seniors. What I see is meth heads abusing elders. It goes like this....they find seniors and follow them home. They wait to see if the senior is isolated and has any support around them, if not, they knock on the door... When the senior opens the door they bust in, beat up the senior steal all their id. Steal anything they can fence easily, take all the prescription drugs they can find and leave.

Meth head watch mail boxes that are easy to access, especically just after the first of the month when all SS checks go out. They rip off anything they can get thier hands on.

Here's another horrific thing I have seen 3 times in the last 2 years:

The meth heads case the home of a senior. If the senior is isolate they bust in and hold the senior captive, stealing all thier money, their social security check, their food. The meth heads usually live at the home of the senior for several months before someone in the neighborhood starts complaining about all the traffic and visitors to the house by people all messed up. In one case the elder was tied to a chair most of the time.

Ain't Amerika wonderful!

rEefeR mAdNesS! 28.Jun.2005 15:05

sunbow

Meth _is_ a bad drug. maybe the police and drugstores cracking down on it is ok. ritalan is made from methamphetamines. oh wait that's legal.

This thing about meth heads stealing mail has proven true in isolated cases and yes there were a few theft rings but it's now being blown way out of proportion by puppets like Sen. Smith and Rep. Hooley.

I think it's deception on two levels. Prediction: after meth they'll want to link mailmen and women to similar types of theft or stealing for " organized meth syndicates " (an oxy moron on many levels). They'll bust a few postal workers.

I further predict the cops and feds will once again turn on distributors of marijuana -- the drug which people in this country most often get busted for. They'll launch federal subpoenas and indictments against FedEx and UPS drivers and managers. Notice how the mainstream news always wants to talk about customs searching imported cargo containers. drug paranoia is like a virus.

What's going on??! Who's there!? Grass is out to get your children! Tom DeLay says so. Lock your doors! Narc on your neighbors who may or may not be smoking pot. But by all means keep smoking those carcinogen-laced cigarettes, eating Splenda filled donuts, watching " fair and balanced " FOX news and shopping at your neighborhood all-American GMO friendly safeway.

Heil Bush! Heil Gonzales! Heil Cheney! Love live the Fourth Reich and the unspoken Prohibition.

world

The Portland Tribune 28.Jun.2005 17:07

Anarchy-nonymous

The Portland Tribune is worse than The Oregonian. Whereas The Oregonian merely goes with the flow of its ownership and the the winds of editorial opinion at other conservative papers, The Portland Tribune never breaks a big story. It is a local, paid for, propaganda piece for Portland conservatism.

Meth is fucking bad 28.Jun.2005 20:07

Pothead

And, I agree that the stories are sensational but WTF meth is fucking bad.

I hate all the bullshit actions that they take like screwing with cold medicines when the real problem lies outside of town but meth is fucking bad.

What pisses me off is that they put so much emphisis on other bullshit "drugs" when they could focus more effort on meth which is fucking bad.

And, that is the problem that I see. They have priorities all screwed up. America would be far better off by conserving fuel rather than trying to sieze more natural resources from unwilling nations. In the same way America would be better off by focusing drug interdiction on really fucking bad drugs like meth rather than trying to scare the "potulation" into believing that all drugs are bad...except alcohol.

People have a right to mind-altering drugs 28.Jun.2005 22:11

George Bender

The powers that be are making it impossible for a lot of us to live in this country. Lacking the money that other people spend to feel better, we can only feel good by altering our brain chemistry. If some of us then go out and steal to support our drug habits well, you asked for it.


Responses 29.Jun.2005 00:40

Dr. E outsideAG@gmail.com

It's amazing how many people stopped their reading after the headline in there hurry to comment, apparently never making it as far as my disclaimer, which clearly (i thought) states "meth is garbage," and "no sane ... person would ever use meth."

Let me elaborate in response to a few comments.

"all you need to do is walk down the streets of downtown Portland to see they are not sensationalizing at all"

What this statement misses is that the doomed and helpless street tweakers who roam downtown Portland are but a tiny fraction of our state's meth abusing population. If the media focused more on working-class adult meth abusers, who are raising families while coping with a horrible addiction, then we might see more practical solutions, like improved health care, and efforts to increase education and economic opportunity in rural Oregon.

"Seems to me that driving the price up is not entirely a bad thing."

As I outlined, if you drive up the price of meth through increased controls of psuedo-ephedrine, meth prices will increase, while the production costs for the major cartels will remain relatively stable. All this means is increased profit for drug cartels, coming out of the pockets of addicts, and more importantly, coming out of the pockets of their families, government support agencies, and the various people who they rob, swindle and steal from to support their habits.

**Real Solutions**

1) Any law enforcement action to reduce supply needs to be executed in tandem with an initiative that creates a coresponding reduction in demand.

2) Oregon desperately needs to get its economy growing, so that it can provide living wages and full employment, especially in rural areas.

3) Addiction is real, and it needs to be treated. As long as the legislature and the body public continue to treat this disease with wardens instead of doctors we will never see any meaningful recovery.

4) Funding and access to education, which is the greatest source of hope and opportunity for individuals, and our state as a whole, must be expanded at every level.

Right on, Dr. E 29.Jun.2005 08:43

Matilda

Yes, I agree with most of the commenters, and with you, that meth is gross. But I, too, have been wondering what the ulterior motive has been behind the sudden sensationalist interest the corporate media has taken with meth. Let's face it. It's been around for a long, long time. We were fairly floating in it when I was in high school. It's not like it suddenly came out of nowhere. Why is this suddenly such an issue?

I hadn't thought of the things you brought up, though, in this very informative analysis of the interplay between meth and capitalism. You're right! And to actually take this a step further, who stands to gain? Hmmmm. Giant pharmaceutical companies who can sell PE for a LOT more money to drug cartels south of the border....

Addition to Responses 29.Jun.2005 09:39

I read stuff

(I thought I should add this since someone said that tobacco use goes down with an increase in price. Along with that increase in price is a major, national media campaign that, while more than a little sensational, is more effective at decreasing tobacco use than the price hike alone.)

5. Educate people (not just kids) on how hard a meth addiction is to kick and what heavy meth use will do to your body over time. You will still get some people who say "Oh, it won't happen to me." but I think if you teach specifics about meth instead of the blanket message that "Drugs are bad." you will get a reduction in demand.

Disclaimer + homepage = confusion 29.Jun.2005 11:36

Bison Boy

Your original article was pretty interesting, but the contents behind the link to your homepage make your disclaimer look trite. I guess I should thank you for your full disclosure, or maybe suggest that you work on unmixing your messages. It's hard to see how your website does anything but glorify use of a very nasty chemical.

I don't know why meth is suddenly a newsworthy crisis again, but I know several families that are seriously messed up because of meth. They're trying to recover, but the crap is too damn available... they have trouble getting away from it.

All the steps you suggest are good steps to take. But raising the price (by cutting into supply chains) is also a good step to take. (Personally, I think making PE prescription-only is going far enough to accomplish that, so I'm a bit puzzled about the outright ban.) To me, it's not so much a matter of trying your approaches instead of banning the precursor chemical, but in addition to the ban.

Public vs. Private 30.Jun.2005 00:19

Dr. E

I hear what your saying Bison, and all I'll say is that my homepage is mostly hyperbole, satire, and inside jokes.

My blog is written for people who know me (although others are certainly free to read it). That is why I write a lot there, and only occasionally post here, when I feel that something I have written could be relavent to a larger audience.

The other thing that I would like to point out is that while it is perfectly fine and well for us to openly discuss public policy on illicit drugs, prudence makes it impossible for me to carry on the same discussion as it applies to me at the personal level.

response to original poster 30.Jun.2005 13:31

anonymous

I think you missed the point of the Trib piece, which was that the policy failures of 1987 -- i.e., not going far enough fast enough -- allowed the current meth crisis to happen. To compound things, policymakers are taking the exact same steps this time around and hoping for different results while saying flat-out they do not expect it to work long-term.

What's wrong with the Trib trying to point that out?

Natural High 01.Jul.2005 12:19

Pharmer John

Once the profit has been wrung out of "pseudo-ep", whats to stop an enterprising biochemie from exploiting natural substances such as kat or yohimbe for the capital generating properties they posess? It should be noted that ephidrene can be extracted from a desert shrub which is also known as "Mormon Tea". Of course this can ONLY be obtained from an Elder of the LDS church. Now you know why they are all so "smily/happy". Much better to concentrate on "root causes" which propel one into such behavior. In case anyone is wondering, nicotine has been isolated in such a way. It has commercial application as a pesticide.

My two cents worth... 15.Sep.2005 05:36

Sixpack trid2bnrml@netscape.net

I'd like to correct the assumption that an RPI reaction produces such a small amount- Having paroled from prison for "manufacturing", I can attest to this. The RPI reaction isc flexible enough to produce several pounds in one reaction, plus another 10% or so on in the second wash. Yes, "annie" is used in larger bulk, simply because it is much faster than the 40 hours needed for a high quality RPI run. The main difference is that RPI reactions can be down-sized to be used in a small vial the size of a cigar tube, producing about .50 gram of finished product---"annie", on the other hand, can not be used in such a small proportion.

In my opinion, stopping the local cooks only takes money from locals and puts it in the hands of, like you saym mexican mafioso. Does anyone realize what our laws consider "posession"? You can pick up a felony, worth 2-5 years in the penitentiary for---empty baggies, dry (but used) glass pipes, or any other items where "residue" that may not even be testable can be. Do you realize that most items are never even TESTED, because the DA assumes that a plea bargain will be reached, and evidence is not needed. Ninety-five percent of all drug cases end in plea bargains. Ninety-five percent!
The war on meth is a hoax, with little attention to exactly what is being used as "evidence" in the few cases that actually go to trial, and the almost EXCLUSIVE use of confidential reliable informants, who are the real scum.

Sixpack
women's anarchist black cross
wabc.mahost.org


i agree sixpack 24.Nov.2005 16:41

someone else jagga_rupture@hotmail.com

i arree with sixpack. this war on drugs is bullshit, it's a war on personal freedom for profit. how do you think organizations such as the mafiaso keep in buissness? pay offs! it might sound far fetched but come on this is america, capatalism gone mad where most people in the force care more about personal gain and a sense of authority than people. we have the right to use anything we want as long as it does'nt harm other people. whether it's meth,pot or acid we ALL HAVE THE RIGHT. the problem lies with what the thread is about, addicts abusing people to get money. the problem does'nt lie with the meth it lies with mis-education. ALL DRUGS ARE NOT BAD!! getting hooked on them obviously will cause problems. we need to inform kids at a young age of the issues and that they can be dangerous if abbused, it's time to be honest and upfront not lump all drugs in one catergory and deem them as bad! otherwise the only way to learn is the hard way, the way at the moment. another BIG problem is the drinking age. if people can't legally go out and have fun with alcohol until 21 then there going to turn to easier sources to get hold of. look at england for example, the drinking age is 18 and the drug issues are nowhere near the severity. most drug use is recreational and most users are well rounded, expanded people. the issue at hand hear is the FUCKING GOVERNMENT not the chemists or meth heads!