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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Apr;66(7):1463-73. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.12.006. Epub 2008 Jan 28.

Impact of methamphetamine precursor chemical legislation, a suppression policy, on the demand for drug treatment.

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  • 1Department of Family and Community Medicine, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA.


Research is needed to help treatment programs plan for the impacts of drug suppression efforts. Studies to date indicate that heroin suppression may increase treatment demand. This study examines whether treatment demand was impacted by a major US methamphetamine suppression policy -- legislation regulating precursor chemicals. The precursors ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, in forms used by large-scale methamphetamine producers, were regulated in August 1995 and October 1997, respectively. ARIMA-intervention time-series analysis was used to examine the impact of each precursor's regulation on monthly voluntary methamphetamine treatment admissions (a measure of treatment demand), including first-time admissions and re-admissions, in California (1992-2004). Cocaine, heroin, and alcohol treatment admissions were used as quasi-control series. The 1995 regulation of ephedrine was found to be associated with a significant reduction in methamphetamine treatment admissions that lasted approximately 2 years. The 1997 regulation of pseudoephedrine was associated with a significant reduction that lasted approximately 4 years. First-time admissions declined more than re-admissions. Cocaine, heroin, and alcohol admissions were generally unaffected. While heroin suppression may be associated with increased treatment demand as suggested by research to date, this study indicates that methamphetamine precursor regulation was associated with decreases in treatment demand. A possible explanation is that, during times of suppression, heroin users may seek treatment to obtain substitute drugs (e.g., methadone), while methamphetamine users have no comparable incentive. Methamphetamine suppression may particularly impact treatment demand among newer users, as indicated by larger declines in first-time admissions.

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