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The Meth Problem

Methamphetamine, also known as “meth,” is an illegal and highly addictive drug. Federal and state government officials have worked for over a decade to address methamphetamine abuse and its effect on everyday Americans.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center’s “National Drug Threat Assessment 2011,” the majority of meth is imported into the United States from outside sources, specifically Mexico.1 DEA agents have since stated that over 80% of the meth found in the U.S. comes from across the Mexican border.2 The remainder of the meth produced in the United States is made in small, clandestine labs that make smaller quantities of meth in more frequent batches – also known as the one-pot or “shake and bake” method. In 2010, 79% of reported meth labs were found in just 10 states.3 Meth production is a problem that extends beyond users to their families, children and communities. Meth production can cause explosions and fires, and leaves behind chemicals that are dangerous for people and the environment.

While most meth is smuggled into the country, some states are also confronting domestic meth production by criminals using easily obtainable ingredients, including over–the–counter (OTC) medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE). PSE is approved by the FDA as a safe and effective OTC drug widely-used as a nasal decongestant.

Since 2006, laws have been passed to put PSE-containing medicines behind a sales counter, limit purchases to 3.6 grams per day and nine grams (or less in some states) per 30 days and require a purchaser’s signature in a logbook that is accessible by law enforcement.  These laws reduced meth labs nationally until 2008 when meth lab incidents in some states started increasing. Criminals identified ways to skirt the sales limits by visiting multiple stores and purchasing amounts of PSE over the legal limit to be used for the production of meth.

Currently, 30 states have adopted real-time, stop-sale technology.4 These systems help enforce current laws. In 2009, the National Sheriffs Association called for the use of a multi-state electronic real-time, stop-sale technology to more effectively enforce current laws and help fight domestic meth production.

1. http://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs44/44849/44849p.pdf

2. Michael Kelley, “World Drug Report Reveals The Staggering Extent Of North America’s Meth Problem,” Business Insider, 6/26/13

3. “El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), Methamphetamine Seizures by State, 2010.” Available at http://www.accesskansas.org/kbi/de/stats_meth.shtml.

4. AL, AZ, DE, FL, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MI, MO, NC, ND, NE, NV, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA,VT, WA, WV.