Don't look now, but while America was focused on the opioid epidemic, meth made a roaring comeback, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Dr. Joy Schmitz of U.T. Health Houston, who is part of a team working on treatments for meth addiction, tells News Radio 1200 WOAI it's the 'law of unintended consequences.'
She says when the federal government in 2006 passed laws requiring a doctor's prescription to buy the nasal decongestant needed to make it, and even required people to sign for buying some medicines which were the main ingredients of the 'bathtub meth labs' which were so popular in the nineties, it gave an opening to the Mexican cartels.
"We are getting more of the drug coming in from across the border," she said. "It is ready made, it is lower cost, and it is more pure, beaning that it is stronger."
When what is known as 'hillbilly heroin' was homemade, police narcotics squads concentrated on meth being made in bathrooms, mixing pesudoephedrine with other chemicals. Exploding meth labs were common features on the news, and the telltale signs of meth addiction, including rotted teeth and facial blisters, became commonplace.
The 'Combat Meth' Act of 2006 required that pseudeophedrine be placed behind the counter, limited sales to 7.5 grams per customer over thirty days, and required pharmacies to track sales.It worked---for a while meth became a lot harder to get.
But then, Dr. Schmitz said the cartels, hit hard by legalization of marijuana in some U.S. states, saw an opening.
"With all the focus on the opiod epidemic, its kind of snuck back up on us, meth addiction has."
Meth seizures are on the rise nationwide, and with street prices as low as $5 a hit, meth is now reaching more people in the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.Meth deaths in 2015 were up 255 percent from the year before the 'Combat Meth' act was passed, and meth has now replaced cocaine as the most commonly seized drug at the U.S. Mexico border.
Dr. Schmitz and her team at U.T. Health Houston are working on a trial for 'methamphetimine use disorder' as a way to fight back.
"We hope it might be a first medication that might curb the craving to use when an individual is trying to quit," she said.
IMAGE: U.S. BORDER PATROL