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While everyone focuses on opioids, meth-related deaths are on the rise

March 20, 2018,  Jeffrey Singer,  Washington Examiner

Speaking to an audience in New Hampshire this week, President Trump announced a redoubling of the nation’s efforts to confront the opioid overdose crisis plaguing the country. Lost in all of the anguish over rising deaths from heroin and fentanyl is the fact that a “golden oldie” for substance abusers is making a comeback.

In February, the Oregon Health Authority reported methamphetamine-related deaths in 2016 exceeded those during the peak of the meth crisis of the early 2000s. The deaths attributed to methamphetamine rose from 51 in 2012 to 141 in 2016. By comparison, deaths in Oregon from heroin and fentanyl overdoses dropped during that same period.

The surge in methamphetamine-related deaths is not unique to Oregon. It has been an under-reported phenomenon affecting the entire country for several years now. This should surprise no one. Prohibition never shuts down a market for a substance or activity. It merely drives it underground and makes it more dangerous in the process. The war on meth is merely one of many fronts on which the larger war on drugs is being waged.

Methamphetamine, or desoxyn, occasionally used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, narcolepsy, and obesity, has been around since the early 20th century. It became a target in the war on drugs in 1971.

By the 1960s, it became popular for recreational and other nonmedical uses. In 1971, after President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs and Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, methamphetamine was classified as a Schedule II drug. Nonmedical use was made illegal. This created a new market for illegal drug dealers. Meth labs, using the popular and effective nasal decongestant Sudafed as an ingredient, sprang up throughout the U.S. and Mexico. As is usually the case with drug prohibition, more potent forms of the drug were developed and trafficked.

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