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Meth Mania," Eastern Professor's New Book

Michael Rouleau

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Willimantic, Conn. - Nicholas Parsons, assistant professor of sociology at Eastern Connecticut State University, discussed his new book "Meth Mania: A History of Methamphetamine" on Feb. 19 during Eastern's Wednesday Seminar series.

            Parsons was first introduced to the topic of methamphetamine use in 2001 when pursuing his graduate degree in the state of Washington. "I hadn't heard much about methamphetamine growing up in Connecticut or attending college in North Carolina," said Parsons. "But the topic received much media attention in the Northwest, and I was especially interested in how it was being portrayed."

            According to Parsons, there have been three major "scares," or sustained levels of media attention, regarding methamphetamine. The first was the "methedrine" scare of the late '60s and early '70s; then the "ice" scare of 1989; and most recently the "crystal meth" panic, which occurred from roughly 1995 to 2006.

Each of these "scares" was characterized by sensational media coverage--for example a horrific murder committed by someone allegedly under the influence of the drug or a neighborhood meth lab exploding--and calls for punitive drug policies. "Generally the mainstream news media has only shown part of the story--the scary, sensational part," said Parsons. "This partial reporting is a disservice to the public, as they are not being fully informed. The historical and sociological reasons why the problem exists or the drug is harmful are rarely discussed."

"Meth Mania" examines the history of methamphetamine in the United States, its relationship with the mass media, and the resulting public and political reception. "Hysteria leads to political action," said Parsons. "Policy decisions made in a state of hysteria may address those immediate problems but their shortsightedness creates new ones in the long run."

One of Parsons' major findings is that reducing the supply of a drug does not reduce demand, which is why legislation such as Prohibition and the War on Drugs has not succeeded in reducing drug use. According to Parsons, when restriction on supply occurs circumvention follows, not prevention. "Meth labs did not exist until the early '60s, after pharmacies started to face new restrictions on selling meth-based drugs," said Parsons. "Since users could no longer buy it, they started making it themselves."

This restriction on supply, while seeming to be an immediate solution to drug use, has resulted in other issues. "Of course meth is harmful and I wouldn't suggest anybody using it," said Parsons. "But many of the problems associated with drugs in society extend from the unregulated black markets that emerge, and not just the chemical properties of drugs."

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