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March 18, 2008 Teleconference: New Report Evaluates Methamphetamine Policies, Recommends Comprehensive and Integrated Reponse

For Immediate Release: March 13th, 2008 Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper (222) 669-6430 New Report Evaluates U.S. Methamphetamine Policies, Recommends Comprehensive and Integrated Response California, New Mexico and Utah Cited as States with Exemplary Methamphetamine Policies Tuesday 1:00 PM EDT: Methamphetamine Experts Discuss New Report’s Recommendations and What They Mean for State and Federal Policymakers What: Tele-Press Conference When: Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 1:00 PM EDT Call in information: 1-800-311-9402, Passcode: Meth Report Who: Reena Szczepanski, director of DPA New Mexico and co-chair of Gov. Bill Richardson’s Methamphetamine Working Group New Mexico has developed a successful “four pillars” approach to methamphetamine that can serve as a model for other states and Congress. Lou Martinez, former meth user and graduate of California’s successful treatment-instead-of-incarceration program, Proposition 36 Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, statewide Prop. 36 coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance and author of the new report The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization advocating alternatives to the drug war, is releasing a report next week that evaluates current state and federal methamphetamine policies and recommends major reforms. The report, entitled “A Four-Pillars Approach to Methamphetamine: Policies for Effective Drug Prevention, Treatment, Policing and Harm Reduction,” is the first report in the U.S. to lay out a “four pillars” approach to addressing methamphetamine abuse. In Geneva, Zurich, Frankfurt, Sydney, and other major cities around the world, most notably Vancouver, the four pillars approach to substance abuse has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of users consuming drugs on the street, a significant drop in overdose deaths, and a reduction in the infection rates for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. New Mexico is the only U.S. state to have implemented a statewide “four pillars” methamphetamine strategy. The report makes numerous recommendations for improving U.S. prevention, treatment, policing and harm reduction efforts, including: Eliminate barriers to successful meth treatment, such as the shortage of treatment programs for pregnant and parenting women; Divert nonviolent methamphetamine offenders to treatment instead of jail; Invest in research to develop the equivalent of methadone and buprenorphine for the treatment of methamphetamine abuse, and allow doctors to prescribe dextroamphetmaine, modafinil, Ritalin and other medications to treat stimulant addiction as part of counseling and drug treatment; Eliminate failed, scare-based prevention programs like D.A.R.E. and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, and increase funding for after-school programs instead; Re-prioritize local and federal law enforcement agencies to focus on violent criminals instead of nonviolent drug offenders, and set clear statutory goals and reporting requirements for the disruption of major methamphetamine operations; and Make sterile syringes widely available to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. While the report concludes that the federal government has failed to enact an effective methamphetamine strategy, it finds that several states are already leading the way, including California, New Mexico and Utah. California’s Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (Proposition 36) has proven to be the nation’s most systematic public health response to methamphetamine to date. This landmark measure, approved by 61% of voters, diverts approximately 35,000 persons from jail to drug treatment every year—over half of whom identify methamphetamine as their primary illegal drug. No other statewide program in the nation has offered treatment to or graduated more methamphetamine users than Proposition 36. In the process, California taxpayers have saved more than $1.3 billion over the program’s first six years. New Mexico is the only state to have developed a statewide methamphetamine strategy that combines prevention, treatment, policing, and harm reduction. This strategy is becoming a model for bringing together key stakeholders, fostering interagency collaboration, and implementing a coordinated methamphetamine strategy. In addition, DPA New Mexico is working with state agencies and the private sector to implement a youth methamphetamine education program funded by federal grant money that will serve as an alternative to the failed scare tactics of D.A.R.E., the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, and the Montana Meth Project. Utah recently enacted an innovative program that provides substance abuse screening and assessment to anyone convicted of a felony offense (drug- and non-drug-related). The results of these screenings and assessments are provided to the court before sentencing, allowing judges to divert certain offenders to treatment instead of jail. This program, the Drug Offender Reform Act (DORA), is based on a pilot program that has diverted more than 200 offenders in Salt Lake County to treatment instead of jail, many of whom have methamphetamine-related problems. The Utah Methamphetamine Joint Task Force recently rejected calls to develop scare-based TV ads in favor of developing a more realistic and uplifting prevention campaign. An advance copy of the report is available upon request. ###
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Methamphetamine Forum and New Report

Please join us for this exciting event, and learn more about the “Four Pillars” Approach to Methamphetamine: Effective Prevention, Treatment, Policing and Harm Reduction. - Release of New Report Evaluating State and Federal Anti-Meth Policies (with a particular focus on successful policies in California, New Mexico and Utah) - How Congress Can Remove Barriers to Treatment for Pregnant and Parenting Women - Duplicating New Mexico’s Federally-funded Youth Methamphetamine Prevention Program - Developing the Equivalent of Methadone and Buprenorphine for the Treatment of Methamphetamine Abuse Speakers include: Reena Szczepanski – Director of DPA-New Mexico and co-chair of Governor Richardson’s Methamphetamine Working Group. New Mexico has developed a successful “four pillars” approach to methamphetamine that is a model for the federal government. In addition, DPA-New Mexico is working with state agencies and the private sector to implement a youth methamphetamine education program funded by federal grant money. This campaign is an innovative alternative to the failed scare tactics of D.A.R.E., the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, and random student drug testing. Malika Saada Saar, M.Ed, JD - Founder and Executive Director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights. Ms. Saada Saar is the founder of Crossing the River, a written and spoken word workshop for mothers in recovery from substance abuse, and the founder and former executive director of Family Rights and Dignity, a civil rights project for low income and homeless families in California. The Ford Foundation honored The Rebecca Project for Human Rights’ achievements with the “Leadership for Changing World” award. Ms. Saada Saar, and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights’ were also selected by Redbook Magazine for the Mothers and Shakers 2005 Award. Carl L. Hart, Ph.D. - Associate Professor of Psychology in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, and Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He is the author or co-author of dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles in the area of substance abuse, co-author of the textbook, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior, and a member of a NIH review group. Dr. Hart was recently elected to Fellow status by the American Psychological Association (Division 28) for his outstanding contribution to the field of psychology, specifically psychopharmacology and substance abuse. Hors d’oeuvres provided. Please RSVP to Grant Smith at [email protected] or 202-683-2984.
Date: 
Tue, 03/11/2008 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Pregnancy: Arizona Bill to Force Meth-Using Mothers-To-Be Into Treatment Passes Committee

The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Monday approved a bill that would allow the state to detain pregnant women who use methamphetamine and hold them involuntarily in drug treatment programs. The bill also creates the crime of child abuse against a fetus. With a 4-3 "do pass" vote in the committee, the measure now heads for the Senate floor.

The bill, SB1500, is sponsored by Sen. Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem). In committee, Gorman said she is not normally a proponent of government interference in the private lives of citizens. "But I do think that the state has some very specific roles," she said. "And one of them is to protect people from harm from other people."

Under the bill, if state Child Protective Service workers know or have reasonable grounds to believe a pregnant woman is using meth and is not voluntarily seeking treatment, they must seek a court order requiring her to cooperate in a treatment program. If the woman refuses to cooperate, the bill would allow CPS to ask a judge to have sheriff's deputies pick up the woman and take her to a treatment facility. As the bill itself puts it:

"Allows a CPS worker to petition the court for an emergency custody order directing a sheriff or law enforcement officer to take the expectant mother into custody and transport the expectant mother to an institution or facility specified in the order, if either of the following applies:

a) the expectant mother refuses to comply with an issued order to cooperate.

b) the CPS worker reasonably believes that the expectant mother has previously failed or refused to comply with an appropriate prescribed course of treatment or monitoring and believes that emergency custody is necessary to protect the unborn child."

Such an unprecedented intervention is necessary given the "highly addictive" nature of meth, Gorman said. Even women highly motivated to stay clean could backslide, she warned. "I would propose that a child can't wait for a year for backsliding off good intentions to be released from being forced-fed methamphetamines by the mother," Gorman said.

Meth-using pregnant women had no advocates at the committee hearing. The three committee members who voted against the measure did so not out of concern for the well-being of those women, but out of fear that Gorman's measure could be a stalking horse for cracking down on abortion in the state. The portion of the bill that creates the crime of child abuse against a fetus could be used to halt abortions, they warned.

1st Global Conference on Methamphetamine: Registration Now Open

1st Global Conference on Methamphetamine: Science, Strategy and Response - Prague 2008 The 1st Global Conference on Methamphetamine: Science, Strategy and Response, will take place in Prague on September 15th and 16th 2008. The main conference will be held at Prague's historic Charles University. The primary objective of the conference is to bring together scientist, world leaders and professionals to discuss the intersection between methamphetamine use, public health, law enforcement and civil society. For information regarding registration, call for abstracts, exhibiting, sponsorship, travel and hotel accomodations, please visit: www.globalmethconference.com or email [email protected] About Prague Prague's magical city of bridges, cathedrals, gold-tipped towers and church domes, has been mirrored in the surface of the swan-filled Vitava River for more than ten centuries. Undamaged by WWII, Prague's compact medieval centre remains a wonderful mixture of cobbled lanes, walled courtyards, cathedrals and countless church spires all in the shadow of the majestic 9th century castle that looks eastwards as the sun sets behind her. Prague is also a modern and vibrant city full of energy, music, cultural art, fine dining and special events catering to the independent traveler's thirst for adventure. Regarded by many as one of Europes most charming and beautiful cities, Prague has become the most popular travel destination in Central Europe. The conference partners would like to thank the City of Prague for supporting this event. Partners: Weave Consulting, Podane Ruce, Cranstoun Drug Services, COCA, Sananim, SCAN, Charles University & The Harm Reduction Project t. 44 (0) 208 987 6021 f. 44 (0) 208 994 1533 c/o Weave Consulting, 10 Barley Mow Passage, London W4 4PH Company registered in the UK 5658749
Location: 
Prague
Czech Republic

Heading Down Mexico Way

On Friday, once this week's Chronicle has been put to bed, I hop in the pick-up and head for Mexico for a month or so of on-the-scene reporting on the drug war south of the border. If all goes according to plan, I'll be spending a week in Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros, the major Rio Grande Valley border towns on the Mexican side, where the Mexican government sent in the army a couple of weeks ago. After that, it's a week in Mexico City to talk to politicians, marijuana activists, academics, drug treatment workers, and others in the Mexican capital. Then, I'll head to the beaches of Oaxaca for a weekend, then up the Pacific Coast, stopping in the mountains above Acapulco to talk to poppy farmers, human rights observers, and whoever else I can find. A few hundred miles further north, in Sinaloa, I'll be trying to make contact with pot farmers, as well as seeing what the impact of the Sinaloa Cartel is on the ground in its home state. I will also, of course, be making a pilgrimage to the shrine of San Juan Malverde, patron saint of drug traffickers, on the outskirts of Culicacan. And then it's back toward Gringolandia, with a few days on the Tijuana side of the border, provided I have any money left by then. In the meantime, I'd like to share with you something that appeared last week but that got little attention. It's an analysis of drug situation in Mexico from Austin-based Strategic Forecasting, Inc, and it's pretty grim. Titled The Geopolitics of Dope, the analysis is a steadfastly realistic look at what drug warrior can hope to accomplish fighting the cartels. You should read the whole thing--it's very, very chewy--but here are the last few paragraphs:
The cartel’s supply chain is embedded in the huge legal bilateral trade between the United States and Mexico. Remember that Mexico exports $198 billion to the United States and — according to the Mexican Economy Ministry — $1.6 billion to Japan and $1.7 billion to China, its next biggest markets. Mexico is just behind Canada as a U.S. trading partner and is a huge market running both ways. Disrupting the drug trade cannot be done without disrupting this other trade. With that much trade going on, you are not going to find the drugs. It isn’t going to happen. Police action, or action within each country’s legal procedures and protections, will not succeed. The cartels’ ability to evade, corrupt and absorb the losses is simply too great. Another solution is to allow easy access to the drug market for other producers, flooding the market, reducing the cost and eliminating the economic incentive and technical advantage of the cartel. That would mean legalizing drugs. That is simply not going to happen in the United States. It is a political impossibility. This leaves the option of treating the issue as a military rather than police action. That would mean attacking the cartels as if they were a military force rather than a criminal group. It would mean that procedural rules would not be in place, and that the cartels would be treated as an enemy army. Leaving aside the complexities of U.S.-Mexican relations, cartels flourish by being hard to distinguish from the general population. This strategy not only would turn the cartels into a guerrilla force, it would treat northern Mexico as hostile occupied territory. Don’t even think of that possibility, absent a draft under which college-age Americans from upper-middle-class families would be sent to patrol Mexico — and be killed and wounded. The United States does not need a Gaza Strip on its southern border, so this won’t happen. The current efforts by the Mexican government might impede the various gangs, but they won’t break the cartel system. The supply chain along the border is simply too diffuse and too plastic. It shifts too easily under pressure. The border can’t be sealed, and the level of economic activity shields smuggling too well. Farmers in Mexico can’t be persuaded to stop growing illegal drugs for the same reason that Bolivians and Afghans can’t. Market demand is too high and alternatives too bleak. The Mexican supply chain is too robust — and too profitable — to break easily. The likely course is a multigenerational pattern of instability along the border. More important, there will be a substantial transfer of wealth from the United States to Mexico in return for an intrinsically low-cost consumable product — drugs. This will be one of the sources of capital that will build the Mexican economy, which today is 14th largest in the world. The accumulation of drug money is and will continue finding its way into the Mexican economy, creating a pool of investment capital. The children and grandchildren of the Zetas will be running banks, running for president, building art museums and telling amusing anecdotes about how grandpa made his money running blow into Nuevo Laredo. It will also destabilize the U.S. Southwest while grandpa makes his pile. As is frequently the case, it is a problem for which there are no good solutions, or for which the solution is one without real support.
This is the situation the Bush administration wants to throw $1.4 billion at in the next couple of years. Maybe it and Congress should be reading Strategic Forecasting analyses, too.

Death Penalty: Malaysia to Execute Man for Marijuana, China to Execute Man for Meth

Even as the UN General Assembly voted this week for a death penalty moratorium, two Asian nations were once again exercising the ultimate sanction against drug offenders. In Malaysia, a man faces death for less than two pounds of marijuana, while in China, a man has been sentenced to death for trafficking in methamphetamine.

In Malaysia, Razali Ahmad, 33, was found guilty of trafficking marijuana Tuesday after police searched his house and found 858 grams. In Malaysia, the charge of trafficking carries an automatic death sentence.

Meanwhile, a Chinese court Monday sentenced Hao Chen to death for being a ringleader in a meth trafficking organization in southern Guandong Province. Five other ring members were sentenced to terms ranging from 15 years to life. The sentences were for trafficking about three pounds of meth.

In addition to the UN General Assembly's condemnation of the death penalty in general, the use of the death penalty against drug offenders has generated a campaign by harm reductionists to end such practices. Look for an in-depth report on all of this in the coming weeks.

Candy Flavored Meth is Safer Than Regular Meth

After a few months of worrying about other more important things, people are freaking out about candy-flavored meth again. They think it's a ploy to get more kids to try the drug, and some of them want to increase the penalties for adulterated meth, even though it's unclear whether such a thing actually exists. But this much is for certain: if you're worried about candy-flavored meth, there's a strong chance that you're an idiot. Here's why:

1. There's a good chance that candy-flavored meth doesn't even exist. Various experts have pointed out that rumors of candy-flavored meth are anecdotal and unsubstantiated:
David Duncan, the chairman of the illicit-drugs council of the National Association of Public Health Policy in Reston, Va., said that the candy-flavored-meth stories are myths, fueled by misunderstandings and a gullible media.

Steve Robertson, a Drug Enforcement Agency special agent and spokesman, said that the DEA has not analyzed any flavored methamphetamine… [Winston-Salem Journal]
The rumor site Snopes.com says the story of candy-flavored meth being marketed to children is false. Snopes explains that meth comes in all colors due to varied ingredients and methods of production. Some manufacturers use food coloring for product identification, but police don't put it in their mouths, so they have no idea what it even tastes like.

2. Kids don't want candy-flavored meth anyway. It's not a f%&king pixie stick. It's meth. It costs like $80 a gram. Kids can't afford it. Fortunately, kids don't have to do meth to enjoy the sweet taste of candy. They can just buy regular candy for $1.00 and avoid all the nasty side-effects.

I've got great news for anyone who worries about drug dealers targeting children: you can't sell drugs to kids because they don't have any money. What, are they gonna save up their allowance for 9 months so they can go on a two day meth binge? Are they gonna cry and tug on daddy's pants demanding more meth money?

Young people may be reckless, but you cannot get a return on your investment by passing out samples of speed in the schoolyard.

3. Candy-flavored meth is safer than regular meth. If you cut your meth with a bunch of candy, it won’t be very strong. Regular meth with no candy in there is much stronger and more dangerous, so it would actually make more sense to increase the penalties for people who don’t water down their meth with harmless candy.

After all, meth is gross. If your meth tastes good, it's probably fake.

So if there is any bright side to the hysteria surrounding candy-flavored meth, it is that we can all observe and hopefully learn from the collective stupidity of the media and elected politicians who will hurl themselves, mouths foaming, into full-blown panic mode over any opportunity to mention children and drugs in the same sentence.

Let us all point our fingers and laugh at them, for they are the true epidemic. They are the actual purveyors of disease and destruction, through the terrible war spawned in their laboratory of idiocy. Candy-flavored meth may be the rumor of the day, but the drug war is a lie that spans generations and it will never taste good no matter how much sugar you cut it with.
Location: 
United States

Australia: In Desperate Pre-Election Move, Prime Minister Howard Says He Will Take Control of Drug Users' Welfare Payments

As his party appears headed for certain defeat in Saturday's national elections, Australian Prime Minister John Howard is once again playing the drug card. Howard announced late last week a plan to quarantine welfare payments to people convicted of drug crimes, but he isn't finding much support, even from the federal government's drug advisory body.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/johnhoward.jpg
good riddance (we hope) to the John Howard administration
Under Howard's "zero tolerance" drug policy, people convicted of drug offenses involving heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines would have 100% of their payments quarantined in a bid to prevent public funds from being spent for drugs. Some 6,000 drug offenders could be affected. Their welfare payments would be managed by nonprofit groups for a minimum of a year to ensure the money is spent on rent, food, and clothing.

"We take the view that it's not right that people should have control of taxpayer money when they have been convicted of such offenses," Howard said. "We are the zero-tolerance coalition when it comes to drugs," he added.

The Australian Medical Association, however, did not think seizing welfare payments from drug offenders was a good idea. "I haven't seen the details of this initiative but certainly punitive measures for drug addicts are not really the answer," said Dr. Rosanna Capolingua, president of the association. "People who have drug addictions actually need help, support and assistance," she told the Australia News.

The federal drug agency, the Australian National Council on Drugs, also expressed skepticism. The group's executive director, Gino Vumbaca, said the proposed policy created a risk that drug users would resort to crime to pay for their habits, and that what is really needed is more funding for treatment and rehabilitation.

"What we have to be careful of here is often there are good intentions for policy, but you have to look at potential or unintended consequences," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "What we don't want to do is make a policy change where we end up placing children or families at more risk or the community at more risk from levels of crime," he said. "Australia needs to dramatically introduce its access to treatment so that people with substance abuse can seek assistance."

Greens leader Bob Brown was harshly critical of the proposal, saying it targeted drug users, not traffickers. "This seems to be [going to] cut them off, leave them isolated, leave them more desperate," he said.

Labor leader Kevin Rudd, who appears well-placed to be the new prime minister, was more equivocal. He said he had not ruled out such a policy, but he questioned Howard's timing on the move. "I'll have a look at it. I always think these things should be treated on their merit," he said. "But I go back to the core proposition: if you're serious about a plan for the nation's future, then if you've been in office for 11 years, what is it that causes Mr. Howard to conclude that these plans could be taken seriously, when they're suddenly put out there, with only a few days to go?"

Prime Minister Howard has been a staunch drug warrior throughout his tenure. Even a mealy-mouthed Laborite like Rudd will doubtless be a great improvement.

Review and Critique: Methamphetamine Mice Study Falls Far Short

special to Drug War Chronicle by John Calvin Jones, Ph.D., JD

(Editor's Note: This article was submitted with full scholarly citations. We edited them out for reasons of brevity and style. Anyone wishing the fully annotated version of the article can request it by sending an email to [email protected])

On August 14, both the newswires and the Society of Neuroscience announced that Dr. Jacqueline McGinty and her colleagues made some new, important, scientific findings about the "long-term consequences of methamphetamine use." McGinty found some of the neurological effects (i.e. brain damage) that methamphetamine causes, the society claimed. In a study titled, "Long-Term Consequences of Methamphetamine Exposure in Young Adults Are Exacerbated in Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Heterozygous Mice," researchers claim that after a mere four doses of methamphetamine, they could measure residual brain damage in mice over nine months later. The researchers then conclude, reasoning by analogy, that use of methamphetamine by humans will lead to brain damage that harkens Parkinson's disease.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/methbrainscans.gif
NIDA brain scans
At a most basic level, there are methodological, political, and ethical questions about the validity and propriety of the study and the authors' conclusions. First, McGinty et al. injected the mice with mega doses of methamphetamine, not doses comparable to what recreational or addicted users take.

Second, after claiming that glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) protects dopamine neurons from the toxic effects of methamphetamine, McGinty depleted the GDNF in one set of mice, administered the meth to them and then concluded that the meth (not their chemical imbalance) caused brain damage. Given that the brains of humans are not altered to lower their GDNF, why should we believe the findings are applicable to people who use meth?

Third, for over a hundred years, the federal government has produced and/or supported research that parrots the government position to vilify certain drugs and those populations who use them. More poignantly, the state of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina where McGinty works has recently been on the frontlines of the prosecution of the war on drugs, as opposed to addressing drug use issues as a medical matter.

In this respect, this latest piece, funded by both the US Army (which compels soldiers to consume amphetamines) and NIDA, compels us to question the research project itself, let alone its supposed results and speculative conclusions.

McGinty and her co-authors purport to tell us that typical doses of methamphetamines can have serious, long-lasting, deleterious effects on brain function to the point of causing Parkinson's disease or Parkinson's-like neurological impairment and disorder. However, instead of giving mice comparable doses as consumed by regular or infrequent meth users, McGinty et al. gave one set of mice four mega doses of methamphetamine.

Four times, McGinty's team injected mice with 10mg of meth per kg body weight, the latter three injections coming at two hour intervals after the first. If a person followed the same regime, how much meth would she take following the McGinty binge? For a 110 pound woman (50 kg), at 10mg per kg, she would be injected with 500 mg of meth -- and then injected three more times over a period of six hours.

The obvious question is, "would four doses of 500mg of meth in six hours be a lot of meth for a 50kg woman?" McGinty fails to provide any mention on the propriety of their dosage and or how common it is for people to enjoy such mega doses. Though one might find a wide range of opinion as to what constitutes either a normal or mega-dose of methamphetamine, the evidence is relatively clear as to how much meth humans regularly consume.

The DEA references an un-cited NIDA report of 2006 which declares, "In some cases, abusers forego food and sleep while indulging in a form of binging known as a "run," injecting as much as a gram of the drug every 2 to 3 hours over several days until the user runs out of the drug or is too disorganized to continue." For some curious reason, the NIDA report has no citations or references to bolster its claim about superhuman meth addicts who need as much as a gram at a time.

Conversely, according to the drug information web site Erowid, a large dose of meth, taken intravenously, would be 50 mg. For even a regular user, 50 mg would generate a high from one to three hours and the user would have another two to four hours to come down.

Hence, if we follow the dictates of Erowid, where a regular meth user might go seven hours between hits, we see that McGinty and company gave mice 10 times what a regular user needs and then re-administered the mega dose three more times within less than seven hours.

The mice in McGinty's study were given unadulterated meth. There have been other documented cases of unadulterated meth use. During the time of the German Third Reich, German soldiers were given Pervitin (which had 3mg of methamphetamine) and later another drug which contained Pervitin called D-IX. D-IX had three significant psychoactive substances, cocaine (5mg), methamphetamine (3mg), and 5mg of a morphine extract. Soldiers and their commanders were advised to take only two pills (either the Pervitin or later the D-IX) per day as necessary to stave off sleepiness.

To compare then, while German soldiers weighing roughly 75kg (165 lbs.) were taking not more than 12 mg of meth (orally) per day (two pills with three mg each, twice a day), lab mice were injected with relatively 250 times as much, in one day. To ingest two hundred times too much water, coffee, aspirin, heroin, alcohol, etc. within a six hour period is enough to kill anyone. That some researchers found evidence that defective mice would show a sign of brain damage many months after what should have been a life ending meth binge is unremarkable.

And by no means were McGinty and her team without any guide as to how much meth other American scientists administer in their animal studies. In sharp contrast with McGinty et al., researchers at UCLA (2007) gave groups of monkeys a range from .2mg/kg to .06mg/kg of meth, no more than three times per day. But they did expose their animals to meth more often than McGinty did. The monkeys in the UCLA study were doped up 9-12 times per week for 6-8 weeks. What were the study's conclusions? The researchers concluded that while such meth exposure correlated strongly with behavioral changes, anti-social and more aggressive actions, the brains of the monkeys did NOT show extensive neurodegeneration. If one set of mammals were exposed to meth for a longer period, yet did not show the same types of disease as reported by McGinty et al., what can we conclude except that she poisoned her mice with mega doses of meth?

It is easy to argue that McGinty and colleagues simply have produced another junk-science, pro-government Drug War propaganda piece. Recent history is filled with examples of similar efforts, with equally dubious results:

  • In 1974 Dr. Robert Heath of Tulane University poisoned monkeys with carbon monoxide smoke produced by burning marijuana. Though Dr. Heath claimed that the marijuana itself produced brain damage, later investigation showed that Heath forced the monkeys to inhale the equivalent of smoke from 63 joints in five minutes and 30 joints a day for 90 days!

  • In 1989, without any scientific evidence, Dr. Ira Chasnoff published a "study" where he proclaimed to have found a new phenomenon, the "crack baby." Years later, however, when he and other neurologists approached the topic with some rigor and control, Chasnoff declared that there were no developmental effects from in utero cocaine exposure. Claiming that poverty, not crack, was the greatest determinant of brain development, Chasnoff wrote:

    "Their average developmental functioning level is normal. [In utero cocaine exposed children] are no different from other children growing up. They are not the retarded imbeciles [that] people talk about."

  • In 2002, NIH sponsored researcher, George Ricaurte, announced to the world in an article published in Science magazine that recreational use of ecstasy (MDMA) leads to brain damage and that ecstasy use by teens would lead to Parkinson's or other neuropsychiatric diseases in later life. Like McGinty and Co., Ricaurte's team poisoned monkeys with massive doses of ecstasy that they claimed were standard doses -- in fact Ricaurte had no references as to define what a baseline dose should be. Voices opposed to the drug war responded immediately, attacking the methodology and conclusions of Ricaurte's work. One year later, after Ricaurte discovered that he had not actually administered MDMA (!), Science itself retracted the article.

  • In the early 1990s, at the same hospital whence McGinty and her team hail, the Medical University Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, doctors and nurses on the maternity ward elected to work as an arm of the state in prosecuting the drug war -- and perpetuated the crack baby myths and stereotypes about crack and African-Americans at the same time.

    The Medical University Hospital instituted a policy of reporting on and facilitating the arrest of pregnant, primarily African-American, patients who tested positive for cocaine. For four years, many African-American women were dragged out publicly from the hospital in chains.

    The medical staff, working in collaboration with the prosecutor and police, conducted an "experiment" to see if arrests would reduce drug use by pregnant women. All but one of the thirty women arrested pursuant to the policy were African-American. The white nurse who implemented and ran the program admitted that she believed that mixing of the races was against God's will and noted in the medical records of the one white woman they arrested that she "lived with her boyfriend who is a Negro." Despite claims to the contrary by hospital staff and the South Carolina Attorney General, most of the arrested mothers were never offered any drug treatment before being taken to jail.

So with this history, we must contextualize McGinty's study and what she claims is the serious social need both to study meth and to warn us of its ills. In recent interviews, McGinty told reporters that:

"Methamphetamine intoxication in any young adult may have deleterious consequences later in life, though [the consequences might] not be apparent until many decades after the exposure. These studies speak directly to the possibility of long-term public health consequences resulting from the current epidemic [sic] of methamphetamine abuse among young adults."

What is the basis for McGinty, a medical doctor and researcher, proclaiming that South Carolina, or the United States, is suffering from a "meth epidemic"? Let us start with a medical definition of an epidemic. As a baseline medical definition, an epidemic refers to the occurrence of more cases of a disease than would be expected in a community or region during a given time period. Included in the idea of an unexpectedly high rate of affliction, we expect to see abnormal or higher rates of mortality.

The threat of disease epidemics in crowded, densely populated or unsanitary conditions is particularly well illustrated in military history. On many occasions a germ has been as important as the sword or gun in determining the outcome of a war. The Spanish conquest of Mexico owes much of its success to an epidemic of smallpox that destroyed about half of the Aztec population. The typhoid bacillus killed thousands during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. Further, the mortality rate from epidemic typhus increases with age. Over half of untreated persons age 50 or more die from typhus.

Other examples of epidemics include the Spanish flu and Bubonic plague. In 1918, some estimates find that 28% of all Americans were affected with the Spanish Flu. And the mortality rate associated with that flu outbreak was 2.5%. The Bubonic plague (or Black plague) has been responsible for great pandemics. The first spread occurred from the Middle East to the Mediterranean basin during the fifth and sixth centuries AD, killing approximately 50% of the population there. The second pandemic afflicted Europe between the 8th and 14th centuries, destroying nearly 40% of the population.

So while in the medical context, the use of the term epidemic is reserved for contagious diseases and or ailments associated with mortality, McGinty insists on using the inflammatory language in relation to a behavior that in no way is contagious -- though arguably addictive for some individual users -- and does not demonstrate excessive or high mortality rates.

According the 2006 edition of the annual study by the University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future (funded by the NIDA), less than 1% of American teens use meth monthly. Another recent NIDA report (2003) found that in some parts of Nebraska, nearly six percent of arrestees across five select counties tested positive for methamphetamine. But in raw numbers, that same study found that only 32 people out of a population of 644,000 were both arrested and tested positive for meth.

In December 2001, the federal National Drug Intelligence Center reported that meth use in South Carolina was far below that of other states. That said, in 2004, a total of 500 people sought treatment for meth addiction in South Carolina. That is, 500 people in a population of over 4.3 million -- or little more than 12 in 100,000 residents of the state.

To compare, in an area of the country where meth is supposedly a visible problem, the Midwest, not even a rural state like Nebraska can show meth use rates of over 1% for the general population. Similarly, given that South Carolina has meth use rates below the national average, and the nation does not show teen meth use at even 1%, where is the evidence of a meth epidemic? Given the federal government's own data on meth use, McGinty's insistence on a meth epidemic is simply not credible.

Similarly, the mortality rates in South Carolina have remained relatively steady over the past 15 years and trend lines show decreasing mortality. In 1998, the State of South Carolina reported zero drug deaths / overdoses in teens. The same was true in 2004 (the last year that data is available).

When McGinty cannot get the basics right, exaggerates or inflates claims, and repeats old drug war propaganda -- as applied to a new drug -- there is little reason to believe her research is credible.

Plan Mexico: The Right Name for the Wrong Idea

Architects of a new plan to subsidize Mexico's brutal drug war with U.S. tax dollars are trying to avoid the name Plan Mexico. Obviously they don't want to invite the comparison to our disastrous Plan Colombia, even though a few desperate drug warriors are still calling it a success. The refusal to name anything after it might be the closest they'll come to admitting that Plan Colombia is widely – and justly – viewed as an utter failure.

As Pete Guither notes, journalists and bloggers alike have already named the program Plan Mexico. So while the details remain to be announced, the stigma of our previous and continuing failures in this area will inevitably haunt any effort to expand our destructive drug war diplomacy.

Although Plan Mexico will surely prioritize scorched-earth drug war demolition tactics, The New Republic notes the bizarre possibility that some funding will be directed towards drug prevention:

One element of that aid package is likely to be funding for drug-use prevention, according to Luis Astorga, a drug policy expert at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City. This is a strange new twist in the complex partnership between the U.S. and Mexico to fight drugs. And the U.S. isn't in much of a position to tell anyone how to prevent drug use.

Damn straight. Gosh, if we knew anything about drug prevention, these bloody wars over who gets to sell drugs to us wouldn’t be such a mind-bending crisis in the first place. The irony is just staggering:

When the U.S. cracked down on domestic meth production early this decade, Mexican cartels adept in trafficking cocaine and marijuana jumped at the chance to supply a new product.


The drug has traveled south, and is now available in every major city.

"Mexico's market is not big, but it has grown, mostly in urban zones," said Jorge Chabat, a crime and security expert at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City. "Availability has certainly contributed to consumption now that meth is produced in Mexico."

Let me get this straight. The U.S. banned pseudo-ephedrine-based cold medicines, and domestic meth production declined. Mexican cartels stepped in to fill the void, resulting in increased availability and use of meth in Mexico. Now the U.S. is poised to give drug prevention funding to Mexico due in part to a meth problem that didn’t even exist before we essentially exported our meth manufacturing problem to that country. Wow. Just wow.

At the end of the day, it is and always has been the massive drug consumption of U.S. citizens that fuels violence and instability throughout Mexico, Colombia, and beyond. We could spend every dollar we have bribing foreigners to stop selling us drugs and it wouldn’t make a difference. We could hire every man woman and child in these countries to help stop us from getting high, and they would just laugh all the way to the bank.

Too many American drug users are already sending their paychecks to Mexico. It is sheer idiocy to suggest that we send our tax-dollars there as well.

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