The bright side of meth

  Your article "Methamphetamine fuels the West’s oil and gas boom" presented a very one-sided look at the problem (HCN, 10/3/05: Methamphetamine fuels the West's oil and gas boom). You acknowledged that meth helped the workers survive long, hard 12-hour days and that the drug can keep a user awake for hours or even days. You also point out that meth traces its chemical lineage back to WW II when soldiers were given "pep" pills to help them keep going.

The problem is, as you point out, that many of the oil-rig workers are jailed, because they turn to crime to support their habit. However, as your featured sheriff admits, "I’ve seen our community and other communities deal with this in the traditional way, and it’s gotten us nowhere." The "traditional way," of course, is denying people jobs and putting them in jail.

Well, supposing we just stopped enforcing the laws barring the use of meth? The United States long ago found that the prohibition of alcohol was a no-winner. Alcohol is addictive, too; driving under the influence is dangerous, and it is also associated with domestic abuse. But suppression didn’t work. Also, testing for alcohol use the night before arriving for work never kept anyone from getting a job.

If the workers feel that meth helps them, why not let them alone? The jails would empty, and the counties would save enough money to offer rehabilitation to those workers who want to get off the drug.

James Lipscomb
New York, New York