Neil Rombardo: How much would you pay to get rid of meth problem?

How much would you pay to stop the meth epidemic plaguing our state?

Currently, the United States spends $23 billion a year to combat methamphetamine. That is approximately $75 per United States citizen, which is a cost of approximately $200 million to the State of Nevada.

How much would you pay to treat those addicted to meth?

In Carson City alone, we spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year just on drug court treatment for abusers of meth.

How much would you pay to prevent 12 percent of children you know from using meth?

It is estimated that 12 percent of high school seniors report using meth. The national average is 4 percent. Nevada currently spends $6.75 million a year on youth with meth addictions.

How much would you pay to decrease your child's chance of ever using meth by 33 percent to 67 percent?

Would you pay a trip to the doctor, a co-pay, use an alternative medicine, or is no price too high?

Meth use continues to plague Nevada. Nevada's meth treatment rate is three times the national average. Meth plays a role in the incarceration of 40 percent of men and 72 percent of women in Nevada. Eighty-five percent of mothers that entered the Bridge Treatment Center in Las Vegas report meth as their primary drug of choice.

The spread of methamphetamine threatens the quality of life for all Nevadans. To end this threat, the Carson City District Attorney's Office, the Nevada District Attorneys' Association, and the Nevada Sheriffs' and Chiefs' Association, support SB 203 a law that makes precursor drugs to methamphetamine prescription only.

Unfortunately, pseudoephedrine (PSE), the active ingredient in a limited number of cold and allergy remedies, is easily converted to meth through a highly toxic and dangerous process.

The availability of PSE is directly proportional to the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Thus, by limiting access to PSE through SB 203, we greatly diminish the amount of methamphetamine in our communities.

Law enforcement estimates that at least 50 percent, and as much as 80 percent, of PSE purchased in the United States is diverted to a black market to make meth through a process called smurfing. A standard $7 box of PSE cold and allergy medicine sells on the black market for as much as $50.

It is estimated that big pharmaceutical companies make $600 million a year from sales of PSE. Presuming the best case scenario that only 50 percent of PSE sales are diverted to the black market, industry profits $300 million a year from meth. Do not misunderstand me, companies should make as much fair profit as possible, but companies are not entitled to profit off of meth and the destruction of our citizens, which is blood money.

If passed, this law will only affect 17 brands of PSE products that a consumer must currently sign a log book to purchase. There are over 137 cold, allergy and asthma medicines currently available off the shelf without signing a log book that cannot be converted to meth.

It is also important to note that PSE is nothing more than symptom relief. It does not shorten colds, end allergies or stop asthma. In fact, patients do not die or suffer irreparable harm from not receiving PSE.

Big pharmaceutical companies will push for electronic tracking (e-tracking) of PSE purchases. In 2008 Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma all adopted e-tracking systems. Since 2008, they have seen an increase in meth related incidents of 67 percent. The national average is 34 percent. However, their law enforcement reports that e-tracking assisted them in only 10 percent of meth related arrests. E-tracking simply does not work.

Prescription only does work.

In 2006, similar to SB 203, Oregon passed a prescription only drug law for PSE and other precursor drugs. Since 2008, Oregon experienced the largest decrease in crime rates in our nation. By 2009, Oregon's crime rate was at a 50-year low. Oregon law enforcement attributes these impressive declines to its prescription only law.

Similarly, on July 1, 2010, Mississippi's prescription only drug law became effective. In a 6 month period, Mississippi has seen a 68 percent decrease in meth labs and a 67 percent decrease in meth related arrests.

So, how much would you pay?

It is time to make PSE prescription only and stop this epidemic in Nevada. Please take a moment to contact your legislators and voice your support of SB203.

• Neil A. Rombardo is the Carson City District Attorney


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