February 18, 2007

Will this really do anything?

Sometimes my RGJs languish around the house and then I do one massive "catch-up" read on the weekend, and this front page article from the 2/15/07 edition caught my eye. It discusses a bill being introduced in Carson City to require a doctor's prescription to obtain cold and allergy medications containing the ingredients used to make meth. This, they say, would shut down the small mom and pop meth labs.

Are you freaking kidding me? I gotta go to my doctor (in Reno!) to get a prescription for Alka-Seltzer Plus?

So, if this bill is made law, I, Jane Q. Law-Abiding Citizen, when I get a cold or hay fever, will be required to call my doctor, make an appointment (possibly pushing out another patient who really needs to see the doctor), drive 50 miles to my doctor, write a check for my co-pay (my insurance pays the rest), wait for god-knows-how-long in my doctor's office just so she or her PA can write me a presciption for my Sudafed. I must then take said prescription to the pharmacy, wait for god-knows-how-long (again) while the pharmacist fills my presciption, checks my insurance, etc, just so that the few homegrown meth labs get shut down. Uh huh.

If someone can tell me that this bill this is going to (a) stem the bulk of the meth coming in from super labs in Mexico (80% of the available meth, according to the article) and (b) slow the addiction rate or get people off meth at all, then I might consider it. But I don't see where that will be the case at all.

This seems like another "look-like-we're-doing-something" overreaction to a complex problem rather than doing the hard work needed to address things like:

  • The whys of Nevada's addiction problem - Why (from the article) "Nevada is at the top of three nationwide lists for people who have used meth in their lifetime, in the past year and in the past 30 days." why "Addiction levels continue to grow, up about 60 percent since 1995"
  • Drug Trafficking - Actually stopping the flow of meth from Mexico
  • Treatment - Instead of putting the bulk of the funds toward law enforcement, how's about we really provide more treatment centers? There are none in Lyon County. Did you know that?
The pharmacist quoted in the article complains about the time it takes to check people's IDs and have them sign the log book. And filling a prescription doesn't? How many of you have taken a prescription to the pharmacy and gotten it filled on the spot? Aren't you usually told that it will take about an hour or so? Then they have to check your insurance, make you sign for the medication, etc. I would think the log book would be much easier. The pharmacist also said that the addicts have figured out a way to get around this. Don't they always?

According to the article:

About 40,000 people in Nevada use meth.

The population of Nevada hovers around (xls) 2.5 million people. Let's say half of them are adults. So it seems to me that with this bill, 1.25 million adult Nevadans will be held hostage by 40,000 meth users because of their addiction. Damn! This is the family that is suffering because of one member's addiction writ large!

I agree, meth addiction is awful. It wrecks families and destroys lives. But so does alcohol. And the problem with alcoholism is much worse.

In Nevada it was estimated on a survey-weighted hierarchical Bayes estimation approach that the total number of individuals with an alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse problem over a one year period was 143,000.
And
In Nevada it was estimated on a survey-weighted hierarchical Bayes estimation approach that the total number of binge alcohol users over a one month period was 371,000.
Meth is just another in a long line of drugs that for the moment is the focus of voter fear. Let's actually do something about the conditions that lead to addiction, get treatment for those who are addicted and treat addiction like the public health issue that it is. Addiction is not a crime. And the rest of us should not be penalized for another's problem with it.

40,000 vs 1,250,000.

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