A Success Story: OP’s Involvement in “Crystal Darkness”

December 4, 2007

An unprecedented event occurred throughout Oregon on the evening of October 5th, 2007, and Oregon Partnership played a major role to make it a stunning success.

“Crystal Darkness,” a half-hour documentary focusing on the dangers of methamphetamine, was aired simultaneously on 22 Oregon television stations.  The program, which included examples of the scourge of meth and the advantages of prevention, generated huge viewership and several hundred calls to an extensive phone bank coordinated by the Oregon Partnership crisis lines center.

IMPACT: The program produced by Global Studio of Reno, Nevada attracted more than a half-million viewers statewide and 367-thousand viewers in the Portland viewing area. Fifty-five percent of the Portland area homes watching TV at 7:30 p.m. were tuned into “Crystal Darkness.” Some 75 volunteers at the “Crystal Darkness” phone bank center spoke with family and friends of those impacted by methamphetamine use as well as hearing from viewers wanting more information about meth. Oregon Partnership contributed to the program’s content, stressing drug prevention and education and providing information on how the state enacted the toughest pseudoephedrine restrictions in the country, which resulted in the virtual disappearance of toxic meth labs. OP President/CEO Judy Cushing was also interviewed.

RESULTS: *More than 300 calls before, during and after the program. The great majority of the calls came into the phone bank center where volunteers were trained on listening skills, advice and referral information, and call logging. *60% of the calls were from family members and friends inquiring about treatment. Frequently, the caller expressed concern and frustration. *40% of the calls were from those who were using meth, looking for referrals to detox, treatment, or a 12-step meeting. Treatment referrals statewide were offered. *On the day the documentary aired, Oregon Partnership’s Helpline received 64% more calls than it did on the same day last year. For the week preceding the documentary, the Helpline registered a 20% increase in calls.

FOLLOW UP:  Oregon Partnership’s role in “Crystal Darkness” gave OP an opportunity to recruit additional volunteers for its crisis lines.  Brochures are being distributed to schools, community groups and places of worship.


Rob Bovett’s Response to the Portland Tribune Atticle About Meth

December 3, 2007

The Portland Tribune’s recent article about meth was excellent and reflects our current situation in Oregon (One meth problem replaces another, Nov 20).

However, I believe there are some points that need clarification. Oregonians and policymakers also need to hear about prevention, enforcement and treatment solutions.

As noted in the article, it was important to get rid of local meth labs, protecting neighborhoods, police, our environment and, most important, our children from toxic exposures.

However, the article also said that Oregon’s highly successful meth lab control laws had “unintended consequences” due to a “massive influx of meth supplied by Mexican drug cartels” and contributed to a “radical transformation” that “in some ways is making the problem even more difficult to fight.”

I believe that’s not quite accurate.

According to federal estimates, local meth labs account for only 20 percent of the meth on our streets.

We were fully aware that eliminating local meth labs would drive that demand to the drug cartels. But by eliminating local meth labs, we removed that source of meth, in addition to saving Oregon taxpayers and property owners approximately $159 million per year. That enhanced our ability to fight the problem.

We can now focus on cutting off the international supply of meth.

Meth is one of the few drugs we can effectively control on the supply side. To make the powerful meth on our streets, you need the decongestant pseudoephedrine (or its mirror image, ephedrine).

Most of the world’s supply of that key ingredient comes from nine factories in three countries. More pseudoephedrine in the hands of drug cartels means increased meth purity, lower meth price and more meth on our streets.

Less pseudoephedrine in their hands means reduced purity, higher price and less meth on our streets. It’s that simple.

That is why Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., and Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., helped us pass legislation last year to set quotas and track international pseudoephedrine shipments. We’ve made some progress, as shown by decreasing meth purity and increasing meth price.

There also is another story brewing on the national and international scene. Oregon has effectively eliminated local meth labs (by the way, nearly all of the 14 discovered this year are dumpsites or remnants).

I think we take for granted that other states have done the same. They haven’t, and are struggling to get rid of their remaining meth labs.

Until recently, their efforts focused on electronic monitoring of pseudoephedrine sales, which is unproven, complicated, burdensome and expensive.

But in Oregon we have proven that you can easily eliminate the remaining labs by simply returning pseudoephedrine to its status as a prescription drug, as it was before 1976.

Our success has not gone unnoticed. Other states and nations are watching and taking action. Mexico recently made pseudoephedrine prescription-only (although it’s different there), and is slated to ban pseudoephedrine in 2009.

Great Britain, which just began to experience local meth labs, also decided to implement the Oregon rule by 2009.

A national work group just reported to the federal government that “Oregon has demonstrated impressive effectiveness” and, if the Oregon model were adopted, there would be “no reason to develop state or national tracking systems, resulting in substantial, ongoing savings, literally in the millions of dollars.”

The Tribune’s meth article was on target and well-done. Recent progress at state, national and international levels has given us a golden opportunity to deal with prevention, enforcement and treatment.

We must expand the process of healing lives and families, and end the cycle of addiction and related crime. Oregon’s children deserve no less.

Rob Bovett is legal counsel to the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association and president of the Oregon Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. He is the author of Oregon’s meth lab control laws and helped write the international meth control laws passed by Congress in 2006.

Methamphetamine Awareness Day: Looking to the Future

November 29, 2007

Tomorrow is Methamphetamine Awareness Day, and in the last couple of weeks, there has been a flurry of local and regional news coverage about how homemade meth labs have virtually disappeared in Oregon while meth continues to come into the state from Mexico.  The good, the bad, and more importantly, the future comes to light.

The trends in the meth story we need to watch this year are the following:

*The quality of the drug has diminished as the price has gone up.  And that’s no accident. Mexico has begun putting restrictions on pseudoephedrine, and it is apparently affecting the supply.  Beginning in January, Mexico will prohibit the importation of the precursor chemicle and beginning in January of 2009, pseudoephedrine will be banned – period – in Mexico.

This is going to be fascinating to watch – whether it will have a substantial impact on the meth trade, which – if all goes according to plan – it should.

*If the purity continues going down, the supply diminishing, and the price going up, more meth users might be headed toward treatment.

*Will more treatment for these people be available. If they’re uninsured, that’s a huge problem because rehab is expensive.  Will the state step up? Big question.

Changing Face of Meth Getting Renewed Attention

November 27, 2007

The changing picture of meth use in Oregon continues to warrant expanded media coverage around the state.

A Eugene Register-Guard article by Rebecca Taylor November 24th explains that while meth labs have “all but disappeared in Lane County since the tightening last year of Oregon’s laws restricting access to pseudoephedrine,…meth addition remains a serious problem in Oregon.”

Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association, says that there encouraging signs, however, that Mexico and other countries are becoming more cooperative in restricting pseudoephedrine.

Beginning in January, Mexico will prohibit the importation of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, and all use of the precursor chemicles will be banned throughout the country by January of 2009.

The result is a higher street price for meth with the purity going down.

As Bovett points out, this is a golden opportunity to do what we need to do “in terms of prevention, enforcement and treatment.”


The Meth Labs are Gone in Oregon, but Meth Isn’t

November 21, 2007

Yesterday’s article in the Portland Tribune about the status of meth in Oregon was disturbing, yet not surprising to those of us at Oregon Partnership.

Reporter Nick Budnick tells us  while meth labs in Oregon have virtually disappeared (now that pseudoephederine products are by prescription only), the supply of meth from Mexico is stepping up

Budnick’s account is spot on, providing some compelling quotes from area law enforcement officers who must contend with a bigger supply of meth entering the state, while the quality goes down, the price goes up, and the damage to children and families continues.

“Oregon adopted the most stringent anti-meth laws in the nation,” writes Budnick. But “That success has borne unintended consequences – thanks to a massive influx of meth supplied by Mexican drug caretels.”

Actually, there are those of us who believed that once the labs were wiped out, other supplies would begin filling the vaccum.  And that leads to the next major step, which is already under way – and that’s  building awareness of the inherent dangers of meth.

Thanks to media coverage and programs such as “Crystal Darkness,” which was seen by almost a million TV viewers around the state, there is growing knowledge about how ugly and addictive meth is.  This is not a drug to be experimented with.  Scientists and researchers will tell you that it takes a single time of smoking meth to become addictive.

That just doesn’t happen with other illegal drugs. 

Oregon Partnership is all about awareness and prevention.  And it’s no different now that we know that meth isn’t going away any time soon.  Attack the problem before it starts – by educating, informing and talking.

Oregon Partnership Provides Boost for Crystal Darkness

October 11, 2007

What a night!

We’re talking this past Tuesday night, when more than 300-thousand homes in the Portland area were tuned into Crystal Darkness, the half-hour documentary focusing on the dangers of meth and the importance of prevention.  Twenty-five TV stations around the state aired the program simultaneously at 7:30 p.m.

Oregon Partnership organized the phone bank brigade – some 75 trained volunteers taking calls from viewers.  OP’s crisis lines operate 24-7, so we know what we’re doing when it comes to assistance and treatment referral via the phone.

During the program, some 300 calls came in – some from addicts wanting help, others from family and friends of addicts, but most of the calls from those wanting more information about the issue.

Make no mistake and the scientists researching meth will tell you this: the first time using meth, you’re addicted.  So we at OP believe prevention is the key to making a dent in the meth crisis.

Oh, and that number to call for more info: 1-800-923-HELP. 


October 2, 2007

As my 8-year old daughter would say…summer is so over.  And OP is hitting the ground running while the leaves are starting to drop and the rain gives us a good excuse to whine about the weather for the next six or seven months.

But hey, on the last sunny day in Portland, OP supporters last week had a ball at the Bell-Blazers Classic Golf Tournament at the Reserve.  A whole lot of former Blazers and present Blazer Steve Blake hit the links, not to mention various local celebrities.

All proceeds – for the second consecutive year – will go to Oregon Partnership alcohol and drug prevention programs. 

 Blazers front office dude, Kerry Nelson, scored a hole-in-one on the 142-yard 14th hole.  Kerry’s group was the first at the 14th tee for the shotgun start, and yours truly was a witness, busy taking golfers’ money for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to the Portland State and Chop House if they landed on the green.  Unfortunately, Kerry didn’t sign up.  Next year!

Coach Nate McMillan spoke at the dinner following the tournament, saying the Blazers are going to run this year, and predicted Greg Oden will come back stronger than ever.  And with the exception of Brandon Roy, no one has cinched a starting spot.  That’s what training camp is for.  And yeah, McMillan seemed very upbeat.

Meanwhile, OP is taking care of last minute details for next Tuesday’s airing of “Crystal Darkness.”  TV stations up and down the state will be showing the program about the dangers of meth.  Showtime: 7:30 p.m.  OP will be handing the phone lines – for viewers who call in with questions and ask for help and guidance.

And on Thursday of this week, I’ll be moderating an OP-sponsored “Conversation with the Media” at Montgomery Park from 10 a.m.-noon.  Call 503-244-5211 to register. We’ve got a dynamite panel, with some of Portland media’s heavy hitters. 

– Pete Schulberg