Arizona's war on meth: What about all the other drugs? - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Arizona's war on meth: What about all the other drugs?

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Posted: Friday, April 18, 2008 10:22 am | Updated: 9:31 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Speed kills! And so do a lot of other drugs. But speed, now known as meth, continues to be the emotional rallying cry for politicians who have jumped on the anti-drug headline-grabbing bandwagon. And Tuesday night’s statewide showing of “Crystal Darkness” brought them out in droves.

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Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Terry Goddard, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon were all echoing emotional testimonials on methamphetamine. They sounded like President Bush and his prewar weapons of mass destruction rant.

Same clowns, different circus.

“Crystal Darkness” was produced by Michael Reynolds, the owner of Global Studio, a Nevada advertising and marketing agency. In a letter to a Valley paper published two days before the broadcast, Reynolds told meth horror stories. The newspaper that printed his letter is owned by the same company that owns one of the stations that broadcast Reynolds production.

Reynolds wrote, “There is a battle our nation is losing. Child by child, city by city, state by state. We’re losing because most people don’t even realize that we’re at war. The enemy is described as an epidemic, a plague … a weapon of mass destruction. It’s methamphetamine. Can a drug really destroy a nation? This one can. Meth marketers are reaching into elementary schools and packaging meth with Mickey Mouse stickers. Children are just one meth hit away from prostitution.”

Are we really teetering on meth infamy? Is the message real?

It is a message that is been pushed since governments forced cold pills containing higher levels of pseudoephedrine behind the counter in 2006. Unfortunately more than 90 percent of meth is made in cartel-owned Mexican labs and it is just one product in a long menu of illegal drugs. About 700 metric tons of heroin was produced last year. Cartels make more than $100 billion dollars a year from illegal enterprises.

Meth abuse has been marketed by some to hit a special emotional button.

In Portland, Ore., the Willamette Week newspaper started asking questions about meth; reporters asked questions about the claims made by the political and commercial doomsday crowd and The Oregonian, the state’s biggest newspaper.

A March 2006 story by Angela Valdez (“Meth Madness: How The Oregonian manufactured an epidemic, politicians bought in and you’re paying”) raised questions and brought honest, nonemotional answers. Dr. Jim Thayer, the director of a Portland addiction treatment center, said that a feeling of hysteria has been created and he’s worried meth will take away resources used to treat other addictions.

Multnomah County Addiction Program Director Ray Hudson cautioned against blanket statements regarding meth use and immediate addiction. He referred to the 1937 movie “Reefer Madness,” which linked smoking marijuana to an “instantaneous plunge into crime and debauchery. Trying to scare people with things that really aren’t true is self-defeating.”

Cocaine and the non-medical use of prescriptions drugs far exceeds meth use by many times. Flagstaff police recently busted a crack cocaine ring and Arizona Department of Public Safety officers seized 20 pounds of heroin.

In August 2005, New York Times writer John Tierney reported that meth addiction occurs in only 5 percent of Americans who have sampled the drug, compared with 3 percent in those who have sampled heroin. That puts a dent in the “one time and you’re hooked” argument.

In a June 2006 Fox News report, “Study Busts Meth Myths, Says Abuse Is Not An Epidemic or Even Widespread,” it was reported “meth use is rare in most of the United States, not the raging epidemic described by politicians and the media. Meth is a dangerous drug but among the least commonly used. Overheated rhetoric, unsupported assertions, and factual errors about meth, lead to poor decisions about how to spend public dollars combating drug addiction.”

In 2007, there were 43,360 enrollments in Arizona drug treatment programs. Only 19 percent of those said meth was their drug of choice. Sure meth is problem in Arizona, but what about the other 81 percent of drug abusers and addicts?

After working drug investigations for 17 years, I can repeat every horror story told about meth Wednesday night about people who were addicted to heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs and alcohol.

We’re a nation of drug abusers and there’s always going to be someone out there to meet the demand. Meth is just one more demonstrative failure of our losing war against all drugs and addiction. And it’s one more success for the purveyors and marketers of illegal drugs. The bottom line: Meth isn’t the only drug in town.

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