Drug abuse has become an emotional term that connotes societal disapproval and elicits a sense of uneasiness and disquiet. It is a term that changes meaning depending on time and place. According to one’s society, his place on the continuum of human history and his reason for using a particular drug, such use is regarded as either socially desirable or undesirable. As such, as a definition, drug abuse is of doubtful utility. For these reasons, this research abandons the conventional definitions of drug abuse in favour of other more descriptive terms which focus principally on the personal risks involved with drug use and the societal costs which result from drug-induced and drug-using behaviour and must be borne by the large society. This research addresses the problem of methamphetamine abuse in Oklahoma. This is the biggest drug menace that faces this state. Abuse of methamphetamine abuse is increasing due to its easy accessibility throughout Oklahoma. As such, there is a need to offer a lasting solution to the problem.
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Identification of the problem: Background to Methamphetamine abuse in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is an end-point and transit region for shipments of a number of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine. The state is situated in the south central of the United States. It has a population of about three and half million residents. The state is ranked twenty-seventh in the U.S. in terms of population. Majority of its population are Caucasians, while the rest of the residents consist of minority groups such as American Indians, Hispanics, and African Americans (Martin 5). Its population consists of more than 20 percent of residents who are younger than 18 years. Residents who are more than 65 years make up more than 10 percent. The state is the 18th largest in the U.S. in terms of geographical size. It has a land area of more than 68,000 sq. miles. Oklahoma has two big metropolitan areas. One of them is the Oklahoma City, which is the capital, and is located in the heart of the state. It has a population of more than half a million. The second one is Tulsa, which is situated in the northeastern part of the state. It has more than 300,000 residents (Martin 7). It is transected by many interstate highways and roads that prop up a big volume of traffic. These highways are utilized by drug trafficking organizations, as well as gangs in transporting illegal drugs into and through Oklahoma from Mexico, California, and other states in the southwestern part of the nation. Among the major drugs that are abused in Oklahoma, methamphetamine is the drug that poses the biggest threat to the state. Unless there are concerted efforts to curb the production, transportation, and distribution of this drug, the menace will be here to stay.
Methamphetamine poses a grave concern in Oklahoma. The situation is bound to worsen if the appropriate measures to curb the problem are not put into place. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, ‘there was an increase in methamphetamine treatment related cases increased between the 1997 and 2001. According to this report, almost all the cases reported were among Caucasian and Indo-American or Alaska native speakers. According to the state’s Poison Control Center, the period between 1998 and 2000 also saw an increase in the number of methamphetamine-linked overdoses and deaths. Abuse of methamphetamine has remained high in Oklahoma with statistics from the state’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse indicating that the use of the drug is only second to marijuana. According to Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program for the state, “the number of adult males arrested in Oklahoma City after testing positive for the drug was relatively high at the start of the millennium”.
Chart 1: Drug-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities, Oklahoma, 1997-2001
The above statistics point out clearly that methamphetamine abuse in Oklahoma is, in deed, a societal issue of grave concern. The mammoth question remains as to what makes the state so vulnerable to the abuse of this harmful drug. One of the major reasons is that the drug is highly available through out the state. It comes in different forms, but the most common one is the powdered methamphetamine. Other forms include ice, which is crystal in nature, has no smell and can be smoked. The price of the drug in the state is steady. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Dallas Division, which is responsible for managing Oklahoma, “the price of the drug remained constant through the state from the third quarter of Financial Year 2000 until the first quarter if Financial Year 2002. A gram of the drug was priced between $65 and $90 in 2000”.
Production of methamphetamine in Oklahoma remains a significant thereat. According to the state’s Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, there was an increase in the number of seizures targeted to methamphetamine laboratories in the period between 1995 and 2001 (See chart below). Many of the labs in Oklahoma operate on a small-scale basis, producing one ounce or less in every complete production round. The labs are owned primarily by Caucasian males. The famous production method especially in the Western part of the state is the Birch reduction process (Weisheit 10). It also called the Nazi method. This process is relatively simple and entails the use of anhydrous ammonia. The method takes less than an hour in order for a finished product to be produced. The finished product is approximately 95 percent pure. On the contrary, the most popular way of producing methamphetamine in the eastern parts of the state of Oklahoma is through the hydriodic acid method. According to Weisheit, “this process can also the use red phosphorus and is a bit longer than the Birch process as it takes three hours (p. 13)”. The finished product is about 90 percent pure.
The raw materials for the production of methamphetamine depend on the method of production used. However, the major ones include anhydrous ammonia, ephedrine, red phosphorus, iodine, and hydriodic acid. Many of the labs that produce the drug are situated in various locations and are easily assembled. The labs can be mounted on vehicles and moved from one location to the other due to their small sizes. This makes detection by law enforcers difficult. In addition, the labs are difficult to identify because they are highly disguised. This takes various forms such as operating in motels.
Production of methamphetamine poses many dangers to civilians and law enforcers. These risks range from explosions, to fatal by-products of the production cycle. As such, law enforcers ought to be protected through the use of special breathing equipment when they are in or near labs. In addition, the clean up costs for the production process of the drug is very costly. According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA):
The approximate cost for cleaning up a single methamphetamine production site in 1999 was about $2500. This cost is bound to have increased through the years. After methamphetamine is produced, it is transported into and through the state in private and public vehicles. The drug is usually hidden in suitcases, consoles, boxes, trunks, or compartments. It is distributed by Mexican DTOs and Mexican gangs or street gangs to independent dealers or retailers who sell it from their premises, or in night clubs (2002).
Solution to the problem
Given the magnitude of the problem posed by the abuse of methaphetamine, there is a need to find a lasting soultion to the menace. The efforts that have been deployed in the past have not been successful in curbing the problem. They have mostly been reactive in nature after the damage has already been done. Such methods include arrests of key drug barons, and seizure of production labs. Despite these efforts by law enforcers, it has been business as usual to the drug barons, while the Oklahoma community continues to languish in dire need for a lasting solution. Something has to be done. This is why an alternative paradigm to the problem has to be put into place. Methamphetamine abuse in Oklahoma can be addressed through a three-pronged solution that entails educating the public, providing treatment for addicts, and a persistent effort to combat drug dealers.
Why the solution will work
The solution presented above has a number of justifications. These are based on the reasons why the previous efforts to fight the abuse of the drug in Oklahoma proved futile. One of the main reasons why the proposed solution may success compared to earlier methods is that it is not reactionery in nature. It has a multifaceted approach. For instance, the earlier efforts to fight the menace focused mainly on arrests and seizures. However, these were derailed by the fact that the production labs are highly disguised, making them difficult to identify. The proposed solution does not concentrate on arrests and seizures. It perceives the problem of drug abuse as rooted in the Oklahoma society (Weisheit 256). As such, any effort to combat the menace must begin from the grass-root level where citizens are educated on the risks of drug abuse. The solution will also entail treating those who have used the substance before. This approach makes the victims feel as part of the society. This may help them to narrate to others the reality of the world of drug abuse and help in demoralizing would-be drug users (Weisheit 282).
In conclusion, the problem of methamphetamine abuse in Oklahoma state can be viewed from a national disaster angle. As such, the menace should be accorded the proportional attention. Efforts should be made in every level of governance in order to contain the issue. The solutions offered should be almost foolproof. They should put the whole society into perspective instead of concentrating on arresting dealers or seizing production labs. In addition, the solution should not sideline those addicted, but should be treated and rehabilitated so as to ensure the whole community heals as a whole.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Methamphetamine prices in Oklahoma from FY2000 to FY2002.”
Martin, Michael. Oklahoma: the sooner state. Oklahoma: Gareth Stevens Pub., 2002.
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National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). “Oklahoma drug threat assessment”. 2002. Web.
Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. “Methamphetamine Laboratory Seizures, Oklahoma, 1995-2001.” 2002. Web.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Drug related treatment admissions top publicly funded facilities, Oklahoma, 1997-2001.” 2002. Web.
U.S. Department of Justice. “Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program for Oklahoma City.” 2000. Web.
Weisheit, Ralph. Methamphetamine: its history, pharmacology, and treatment. Minnesota: Halzelden.