A Common Sense Approach to Meth Finally Comes Before Congress

Jul 8, 2010 at 1:10 pm
click to enlarge Russ Carnahan
Russ Carnahan
"After decades of failed methamphetamine policy - from increased sentences for nonviolent meth-related offenses to making every American show ID to buy cough medicine - Congress is finally learning what teenagers learn in high school economics: as long as there is a demand for something, there will be a supply to meet it."  -Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Piper is lauding the Universal Access to Methamphetamine Treatment Act, introduced yesterday by Missouri congressman Russ Carnahan, a Democrat from St. Louis. If passed, the bill would significantly boost funding for meth addiction treatment and research.

The bill's stated purpose is to "reduce crime and improve public safety by making treatment for methamphetamine abuse available to every American who needs it; keep families together by encouraging alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug law offenses; and expand research on the root causes of methamphetamine abuse and the most effective ways to treat it."

As introduced, the law includes provisions that would increase the capacity of meth treatment centers, hire new treatment professionals and increase funding for counseling of "underserved populations" such as Native Americans, people of color and the GLBT community.

There are also plans for "comprehensive wrap-around" meth therapy that would add more structure and oversight to court-ordered substance abuse counseling. To prevent relapses, the programs would be expanded to include services like medical, dental, mental health and child care, as well as job and parenting training.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of the legislation, however, is the section that deals with "drug treatments for stimulant abuse." Piper explains:
"[The bill] provides additional funding for studies that look at cutting-edge methamphetamine addiction treatments, such as replacement therapy. Under replacement therapy, doctors prescribe one or more pharmaceutical drugs to people with substance abuse problems to eliminate or reduce their use of problematic drugs and improve their mental and physical well-being. The most commonly known replacement therapies are the nicotine patch for cigarette addiction and methadone for heroin addiction."
In other words, if this bill makes it through Congress intact, it would be a giant, progressive leap forward in the effort to ween America -- and Missouri -- off of meth.