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House minority leader Rusche disputes cause of drop in teen meth use

House minority leader Rusche disputes cause of drop in teen meth use

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
June 22, 2010

On Wednesday, Gov. Butch Otter and his wife, First Lady Lori Otter, praised the work of the Idaho Meth Project, and said efforts made by the project were the sole reason for a massive drop in the number of teens in Idaho who reported using the harmful drug meth. House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, commented on the story on a blog site hosted by the Spokesman Review and said that tighter government regulation on a key ingredient used to make the drug was primarily responsible for the drop.  Rusche also advocated for increased use of community drug courts and rehabilitation centers to fight the powerful and highly-addictive drugs.

Here's what Rusche said on Huckleberries Online:

Several changes have happened in the time period besides the Idaho Meth Project. Sales of pseudoephedrine, a raw material used in meth production, began to be regulated at the state level and then federally (for large quantities). Communities started drug courts and other interventions to treat and prevent. And youth awareness campaigns through the meth project and others broadened awareness in kids. Success is not just due to the Meth Project which has received between $500,000 and $1 million in state money annually. Drug use prevention and substance abuse treatment, for meth and other substances, will continue to be needed. Our current state budget situation makes ongoing support difficult but essential.

Rusche and several other lawmakers co-sponsored a bill in 2006 that regulated the sale of pseudoephedrine.  The bill, which received overwhelming support from both chambers of the Idaho Legislature, provided that no more than nine grams of pseudoephedrine could be purchased in a single transaction or in a 30-day period.  The legislation, which became law in July of the same year, also regulates where products containing pseudoephedrine may be placed in stores.

Other reports seem to coincide with praise for the Idaho Meth Project in reducing the number of teens using meth.  In 2009, a study released by the Partnership for a Drug Free America found that teen meth use had dropped by 14 percent nationwide between 2006 and 2009.  Of note, however, is what the partnership writes about how that drop may have been achieved.  "The study also indicates a strong correlation between increased teen exposure to anti-drug messages on television and a decreased likelihood of trying drugs over the past 10 years. Four out of ten teens (41 percent) agreed that anti-drug messages made them more aware of the risks of using drugs and less likely to try drugs (42 percent)," says a news release on the study.

The goal of the Idaho Meth Project has been to saturate the local media with ads and public service announcements demonstrating the effects of taking the drug.  The project reported in January of this year that about 60 percent of teens in Idaho reported saw at least one anti-meth advertisement per week.  A majority of teen and young adult respondents said that the three anti-meth ads the project ran in the 2009 made them less likely to use or experiment with meth.

The state of Arizona, which has its own anti-meth campaign, has also experienced similar levels of reductions in meth use.  A 2008 study outlines what researches called a "significant reduction" in the number of Arizona teens and young adults using the drug.  That study was taken a little more than a year after the Arizona Meth Project was founded and started producing anti-meth ads.  State government regulation, however, is likely to have not played a role Arizona teens' attitude about meth.  Arizona did not start regulating the sale of pseudoephedrine until mid-year 2009.  Arizona young also benefited from METHSmart, a program used in conjunction with activities of Boys and Girls Clubs in that state, which teach youth how to properly avoid the drug and peer pressure surrounding its use.

As Rusche mentioned, the drop in use of meth by Arizona and Idaho teens could be attributed to increase regulation of pseudoephedrine by the federal government.  The drop in Arizona began the same year the federal government began regulating the key ingredient for meth.  The Combat Methamphetamine Act of 2005 was successfully passed into law by federal lawmakers in September 0f 2006.  The act put a limit on how much pseudoephedrine could be purchased by one person in a 30-day period of time, a cap amount similar to what Rusche's bill enacted in the state in 2006.

Otter's own words may make some second guess Rusche's argument about increased regulation.  In the initial news release from the governor's office on the drop in meth use of Idaho teens, Otter said that the U.S. Justice Department reported the availability of the drug in the United States is at a five-year high thanks to the work of Mexican drug cartels, which regularly smuggle the drug across the border.

Rusche told IdahoReporter.com that he was simply trying to point out that a "multi-factoral approach" was used to discourage teens and adults alike from using meth.  He said that government regulation has gone a long way to regulating the legal trade of pseudoephedrine, though he admitted not much could be done to regulate the sale of illegally produced meth brought in by the drug cartels.

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