Current State of Methamphetamine in the US
Methamphetamine use has decreased over the last few years, according to statistics, by about 2% across all age groups. Meth use has declined because the supply has been cut off by the government.
With The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (Title VII of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, P.L. 109-177), the primary ingredients used to make meth were regulated. The primary ingredients needed to manufacture methamphetamine, Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine, are now more difficult to buy, but not impossible. In the years since its enactment, the regulation and sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine made the manufacturing of meth much more difficult, but not impossible. People can still easily view a YouTube video and learn how to make meth in the comfort of their own homes. The popularity of a show called Breaking Bad on AMC has also sparked new interest in the sale and manufacture of methamphetamine. In this acclaimed series, the primary character, a chemist, realizes the lack of ephedrine dilemma and begins using a substitute chemical to make large amounts of methamphetamine.
A meth lab, like the one in the first episodes of Breaking Bad, employs something called the ‘Red, White, and Blue Process’, which involves the hydrogenation of the hydroxyl group on the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine molecule (This process, simply put, allows ephedrine to pass through the blood brain barrier of the brain). The Red is red phosphorus, white is the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, and blue is iodine, used to make hydroiodic acid. These chemicals can be highly dangerous and toxic in the form of phosphine gas (hence the gas masks people have to wear while cooking meth). White phosphorus with sodium hydroxide produces the gas, usually as a result of overheating red phosphorus, plus white phosphorus can ignite and explode. Other harmful vapors are often floating around a meth lab: chloroform, ether, acetone, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, methylamine, iodine, hydroiodic acid, lithium or sodium, mercury and hydrogen gas.
Over 8,600 meth labs were found by the DEA in 2009. I predict that this will increase, not decrease. I also predict that methamphetamine use will increase over the coming years, not decrease. Here are a few reasons why meth will make a comeback:
One Reason: While the Mexican drug cartel is big on marijuana, it is not nearly as profitable as meth ? plus, marijuana takes a long time to grow. One Superlab in Mexico can yield a greater amount of product, at a lower production cost, over a decreased amount of time and be sold for more than marijuana is on the streets.
Second Reason: Meth is a highly addictive drug ? the most addictive drug there is in fact ? when made properly. One or two hits of methamphetamine and the person is addicted. Once quality methamphetamine returns to the streets, it will create another wave of addicts.
Third Reason: Drug cartels will find a way around the lack of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine available to them. In fact, it is highly likely that groups of people are stockpiling these two most necessary ingredients needed to make meth, preparing for a large methamphetamine push in the future.
Fourth Reason: Meth is cheap. Or at least it used to be ? and one day it will be cheap again. Whilst the cost of street meth has increased since the regulation of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, it is still cheaper to buy compared to cocaine, heroin and prescriptions medications.
For all of the above reasons, it is predicted that meth will increase in the future as soon as people find a way around the regulation of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Additionally, there is a very good television show (‘Breaking Bad’) populating the airwaves that makes manufacturing meth look romantic and profitable again.
Despite a decrease in use, methamphetamine is still a problem and there are signs pointing to another methamphetamine epidemic in the near future. Right now, the quantity and quality of meth on the streets is not what it was in the 90’s, so there are less problems with it currently, but it is sure to make a comeback as soon as the manufacturing problems are addressed.