Consider the cost of methamphetamines.
For the user, purchase of the drug on the street is inexpensive, roughly $20 for a single dose, or $80 for a gram, which is about four doses. An “eight-ball” is 3.5 grams and sells for about $200.
Each dose can last for as long as two days, though the usual time is about a day. This is a far longer “high” than most abused drugs offer.
That monetary cost is only the beginning of what the user pays, however. He pays with an addiction that is among the most difficult to overcome. He pays with the inability to keep a job.
And, as 307th District Judge Tim Womack has discovered, the meth user pays with a family that is often broken forever.
Womack has estimated that 90 percent of the children his court must remove from families result from one or both parents using methamphetamines. Meth is what splits families apart in Gregg County.
Which means, of course, that innocent children also are paying for meth addiction, at probably the highest price of all. These children immediately are at risk in our society in all sorts of ways, from failing at school to becoming drug abusers themselves. Those outcomes can be prevented if they happen to land in a solid foster family situation, but even then the battle is uphill for years before they can escape their pasts.
None of this addresses the other costs of methamphetamine abuse. In 2005, the Rand Corp. did a study on the economic costs of meth addiction in our nation that put it at more than $23 billion a year.
That was 13 years ago. How much higher is the cost today? We cannot say but we know it has risen, dramatically, over that time.
What is most problematic, though, is that we have heard absolutely no good solutions to the meth crisis. Womack wishes for such a development, acknowledging that he does not have a complete answer.
Part of the reason for the lack of national attention on methamphetamines is that much focus now is being directed to the opioid crisis. It’s hard to argue with the need for that, but opioids in Gregg County are not as life-rending as meth.
It could be that our county or our East Texas region should try to push the upcoming session of the Legislature to devise a plan — and fund it — to ease the methamphetamine problem.
One county or even a significant region of the state cannot devise such a plan by itself, and we don’t think it is useful to label it a “war on drugs.”
Any idea that we could ever stop the flow of drugs to abusers is hopeless. Instead, we must find ways to make living a clean life more attractive than a momentary high. People need to be helped to reject drugs, even though they are so readily available. That requires a focus beyond just punishing drug users and sellers.
We cannot make such a plan ourselves, but we can certainly begin to apply the political pressure on those who can make a decision to do so. Is this an uphill battle? Yes, but we know of few serious challenges that are overcome easily.
We will never reduce the meth problem until we seriously try. It is well worth our time to do that.