I want to ask a serious question but the answer to me is so overwhelmingly obvious. But I'll ask nonetheless. Are you aware that methamphetamine (meth) is dangerous and addictive? Are you aware that the drug can be produced in makeshift "labs" and requires only cold tablets and common household chemicals? Are you aware that the drug is dangerous to make and that those around the "labs" can suffer health problems?
These questions are simply no-brainers to me. Meth has been around long enough that only a hermit would not realize the dangers of the drug. As you might not be aware, Missouri is the No. 1 producer of meth in the nation with more "labs" uncovered than any state. And we win that dubious title by a wide margin.
So here's my dilemma. The federal government with much fanfare unveiled a new ad campaign in Missouri this week that hopes to inform citizens of the dangers of meth. Someone needs to tell the feds that they're a day late and a dollar short. What we need is not an ad campaign but rather some solution to the growing epidemic of meth use.
How about spending that money for rehabilitation services for meth addicts and then mandate that the courts send all first-time users to an intensive rehab? Or how about mandating that manufacturers of any product that can be used in making meth contain an ingredient that would render that substance useless for the meth maker.
We spend billions on AIDS and pennies on meth. Just look up the numbers in this country and see which scourge has the greatest impact. Crack cocaine is made from a plant and imported into this country. That battle is hard to wage. Meth is made from ingredients at your local convenience store. It would seem addressing that problem is within our powers.
Meth addicts need rehab services and not some country club environment for white trash. They need to pay a price for their actions but they also need to be returned as productive members of society. The system of punishment as it now stands is simply not working.
But instead, we get all excited about a new Web site for meth information, a new brochure that talks of the dangers and a host of billboards that outline the problem. That may make us feel good about ourselves but it won't solve the problem.
Wait until meth makes its way from the country to the cities. That exodus has begun. And all the billboards and 30-second radio commercials won't mean a thing.
If we want to be serious about meth, we need to put our money where our mouth is. It's a tough approach but then again, meth's a tough drug.