The Meth Epidemic
Mamphetamine is the most addictive illegal drug in America. Unlike marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, all of which are synthesized from easy-to-obtain plant material (cannabis, cocoa leaf, opium poppy), meth requires ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which are very complex to make and require a lot of know-how and high-tech processing. The only folks who have that ability are legitimate chemical factories. In fact, there are less than a dozen such factories around the world that produce these chemicals. Which means it should be easy to stop illegal use at the source.
“Should” is the key word there.
When you’re trying to halt drug trafficking, you can work two sides. There’s the demand side and the supply side.
When you work on the demand side, you try to affect people’s desire and use. For example, in the 1960’s the Federal Trade Commission, along with other government agencies and private groups, began a campaign against tobacco. Using government policy, public awareness, and education over the last forty years, these groups have significantly altered demand for tobacco in the United States. In 1963 more than half the nation smoked. 4,345 cigarettes were consumed per capita. But as these groups worked to affect demand, those numbers dropped steadily until by 2006 only 1,619 cigarettes were consumed per capita.
That’s astounding, folks. A whole culture was changed.
When you work on the supply side, you try to reduce the production and distribution of drugs. This can sometimes be almost impossible to do. For example, almost anyone can grow marijuana. And it takes very little knowledge to harvest and package the parts that are used. Same with alcohol–home brewing has been practiced for ages. In both examples, the ingredients are easy to obtain and the processing is relatively simple and easy to hide.
But there are some drugs that are very difficult to produce. The key ingredient for barbiturates is one. In the 1950’s and 1960’s barbiturate abuse was increasing. But the government instituted some regulations on the legitimate businesses that produced these ingredients, and it reduced the amount available on the streets until we very seldom hear of barbiturates being used these days.
So where does meth fit in? Well, as I stated above, there are less than a dozen factories that create the key ingredients. Meth is a perfect candidate for supply side intervention. Unfortunately, regulation isn’t as easy as it may seem.
PBS’s Frontline recently aired “The Meth Epidemic” which explains the history of meth in the United States and the battle raging over its cure. If you’ve ever wondered about what meth is and how it affects our nation, you’ll want to watch this. I think you’ll find it eye-opening and well worth your time. Watch it for free here: http://video.pbs.org/video/1933783731.
The US Marine Corps is a fascinating organization with special capabilities. With the exception of the Coast Guard, they are the smallest of the United States’ armed forces, although they’re still bigger than the entire British army. Part of what makes the Marines unique is that they have the ability to rapidly deploy an independent task force (infantry, air support, ships) to almost anywhere in the world within days. Because of this, they are usually the first boots on the ground in any engagement. They pave the way and the Army and other branches follow to provide overwhelming and continuous force.
But the differences include more than their mission. The Marine Corps emphasizes authority and responsibility downward to a greater degree than the other military services. It members are, on average, younger. And its creed “Every Marine’s a Rifleman” has special implications for its commanders and troops.
In order to do some research for a novel I’m writing, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about special operations forces and the Marines. One of the best introductions to the Marines I’ve come across is the 2007 PBS documentary called The Marines. It examines what it takes to become a Marine and what it truly means to be one, outlining the rigorous training process that each recruit must endure to become a commissioned officer. I found it fascinating.
If you have ever been curious what makes the Marines different from the other branches of the military and what it takes to become one, you’ll want to watch this film. I couldn’t find it on the PBS site, but you can find it split into 10 parts at YouTube.com. Just go to site and search for “pbs the marines”.