(AUSTIN) - This session, several bills have already been filed that deal with the growing problem of methamphetamine production. As a member of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, I will be reviewing many of these bills and I am confident the legislature will find a way to effectively deal with this problem. This article is taken from the Senate Research Center publication entitled "Issues Facing the 79th Legislature," and more issues from the report will be highlighted in future Capitol Updates. To view the entire report, please go to www.senate.state.tx.us or call my office to receive a hard copy.
Methamphetamine Laboratories Along the Texas/Oklahoma Border
Methamphetamine abuse is a serious and growing problem throughout the United States. Methamphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that is easily produced in home laboratories using inexpensive, over-the-counter ingredients, especially pseudoephedrine and ephedrine products. Initially, it was prescribed for weight loss or used to help people stay alert, and while those uses continue, its abuse has become a growing problem. According to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 4.3 percent of the United States population (9.6 million people) reported trying methamphetamine at least once, with the highest usage rates among the 18-to-25-year-old age group.
Law enforcement agencies have focused on the illegal production, trafficking, and distribution of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine labs also pose a health threat to people who are exposed to them, especially children. In addition to the dangers of exposing children to the precursor chemicals and the vapors from mixing and boiling these products, methamphetamine-addicted parents may be abusive toward and neglectful of their children. Children from these homes may experience psychological and emotional trauma from interaction with law enforcement, and from displacement from their homes into foster care if their parents enter the criminal justice system.
Methamphetamine has toxic effects and the damaging effects of long-term methamphetamine abuse include addiction, anxiety, violent behavior, insomnia, and confusion. Chronic abusers can also display a number of psychotic features, including auditory hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, mood disturbances, and suicidal as well as homicidal thoughts. Like other needle injecting drugs, there is also the potential for HIV and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C transmission. Although the physical manifestations of a withdrawal for a chronic user are not as visible as with other addictive drugs, more severe psychological symptoms can occur when use is stopped.
Fetal exposure to methamphetamine during pregnancy can result in increased rates of premature delivery, prenatal complications, and altered neonatal behavioral patterns, such as extreme irritability and abnormal reflexes.
Unlike many other illicit drugs, methamphetamine is not usually bought and sold on the streets. Methamphetamine sales are typically less visible exchanges prearranged by "networking" with producers. Due to the availability of the precursors and the ease of obtaining recipes and supplies from the Internet, many users simply make their own product at home. Uncertainty about the drug's sources and the pharmacological agents used to produce it make it extremely difficult to determine its toxicity and resulting symptoms and consequences.
The processes and chemicals used are readily available, inexpensive materials. The one ingredient that methamphetamine labs must use is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, an ingredient common to over-the-counter cold remedies. Several states have passed legislation requiring such products to be sold in certain formulations such as liquids or geltabs to discourage such illicit use, or have passed laws that restrict access by placing such products in pharmacies or behind counters and limiting the quantities that a person can purchase.
During the 79th Legislature, Texas lawmakers may address issues including increased penalties associated with the production, trafficking, and distribution of methamphetamines; the prevention and treatment of methamphetamine abuse; and the costs associated with these issues. Legislators may also address whether methamphetamine addiction treatment programs will be eligible for reimbursement under state assistance programs and at what rate; and whether state-funded clinics will provide such treatment. Legislators may also address issues relating to restricting the sale of and access to certain products, such as over-the-counter cold medications containing psuedoephedrine, which are used in the manufacturing of methamphetamines.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0556 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: firstname.lastname@example.org.