Once called “poor man’s cocaine,” popular mainly in rural areas and on the West Coast, methamphetamines have seeped into the mainstream, Newsweek reports in this week’s cover story. Relatively cheap, the highly addictive stimulant is hooking more and more people across the socioeconomic spectrum. The drug is making its way into suburbs. In upscale Bucks County, Pa., the Drug Enforcement Administration last month busted four men for allegedly running a meth ring. Nearly half the women in Salt Lake City’s jail tested positive for the drug in one study.
More than 12 million Americans have tried methamphetamine, and 1.5 million are regular users. Meth-making operations have been uncovered in all 50 states; Missouri tops the list, with more than 8,000 labs, equipment caches, and toxic dumps seized between 2002 and 2004. Cops nationwide rank methamphetamine the No. 1 drug they battle today. Newsweek sks whether we are fighting the wrong drug war. The Bush administration has made marijuana the major focus of its anti-drug efforts; there are an estimated 15 million American users. those fighting on the front lines say the White House is out of touch. “It hurts the federal government’s credibility when they say marijuana is the No. 1 priority,” says Portland, Or., prosecutor Mark McDonnell. who regards meth as “an epidemic and a crisis unprecedented.”