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February 2006
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Tonight: Frontline presents The Meth Epidemic

I hope you have better things to do on Valentine’s Day. But if you want to, and you can stomach it, let me know how Frontline does with this.
Interestingly, Frontline publicist Jessica Smith contacted me and thought I might be interested. Based on the description, though, it sounds like the usual sensationalist drug war epidemic attempt to raise ratings.

Speed. Meth. Glass. On the street, methamphetamine has many names. What started as a fad among West Coast motorcycle gangs in the 1970s has spread across the United States, and despite lawmakers’ calls for action, the drug is now more potent, and more destructive, than at any time in the past decade. In The Meth Epidemic, airing Tuesday, February 14, 2006, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE, in association with The Oregonian, investigates the meth rampage in America: the appalling impact on individuals, families and communities, and the difficulty of controlling an essential ingredient in meth — ephedrine and pseudoephedrine — sold legally in over-the-counter cold remedies.

Tellingly, the release indicates that the special will explore two potential solutions to the meth “crisis.” 1. controlling the retail sale of the ingredients, and 2. regulating the source of the ingredients. No discussion indicated regarding non-drug-war solutions or indication that the drug war caused the “crisis.”
Apparently Souder is interviewed. No indication as to whether anyone outside the drug war industry is involved.
Update: I didn’t watch it, but the web site is now live, complete with all the standard sensationalism and some of the shoddiest reporting I’ve seen. Pages of stuff, and only one slight mention that there might be another view…

There are some observers who say the meth problem is blown out of proportion because the number of meth-related drug treatment admissions, seizures, and fatalities are relatively few when compared to those for heroin or cocaine. However, meth’s impact on families and communities is much more devastating.

That’s it.
And the interview with Souder? Practically kissing his ass. Check out this exchange as the interviewer brings up the issue of cold medicine with alternate ingredients:

[Interviewer]One thing that’s happening is now that companies are losing shelf spaces because their products with pseudoephedrine must be placed behind the counter. They are bringing out products with phenylephrine, [which, unlike pseudoephedrine, cannot be turned into crystal meth]. But phenylephrine has been around for about 50 years. Why do you think it took so long?

[Souder]As I understand it, the alternative products are not as effective in treating pain or symptoms as the products that had the pseudoephedrine in them, and it isn’t clear whether something can come to market that will replace that. But the plain truth of the matter is that in order to tackle the meth problem, at least in the short term, we are probably going to have some reduction in some quality of impact of some products. The question is, are we better off as a nation to have a little bit less effective headache medicine or cold medicine in order to get rid of meth?

But why has it taken so long to introduce these products?

I believe in America we’ve reached a tipping point. If it [were] just in rural Nebraska, it would be a fair political debate to say, “Should we restrict a grocery store in New York City from having the most effective headache product in their choices from 120 choices to 20?” But if the problem moves beyond just Nebraska — and it’s now in 40 states, quickly heading to 50 states, and it’s devastating costs to law enforcement, to treatment, to environmental impact — so you say, “OK, the marginal change here in headache medicine is worth it.”

Some say the pharmaceutical industry has had to be dragged kicking and screaming here.

So we’re talking about reducing the quality of medicine for everyone because of panic over this so-called epidemic, which is, of course, just fine for Souder, and the Frontline interviewer is practically screaming “Why didn’t we sabotage our medicine earlier?”
Shameful for PBS.

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