December 11, 2012
Methamphetamine is second only to marijuana as the most widely used illegal drug, and now a member of Tulane’s economics faculty will study whether placing more severe restrictions on one of its active ingredients could reduce the public health costs of meth production and use.
The ingredient is pseudoephedrine, commonly found in over-the-counter cold and sinus medications.
Keith Finlay, assistant professor of economics, recently won a $116,462 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to measure whether quantity restrictions, electronic tracking or requiring a doctor’s prescription for pseudoephedrine could ultimately lower the production and use of methamphetamine. His co-author on the study is Scott Cunningham, an assistant professor of Economics at Baylor University.
The grant is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program that sponsors studies on how laws can affect public health.
“Over-the-counter availability of pseudoephedrine has fostered widespread production of methamphetamine in home laboratories, making methamphetamine inexpensive and broadly accessible,” Finlay said.
Its popularity has led to a variety of long-term social problems, including child abuse, foster care admissions, environmental damage and hospitalization, costing an estimated $23.4 billion in 2005, Finlay said.
As part of his study, Finlay will look at how restrictions of pseudoephedrine vary from state to state and how the wide range of policies affect public health outcomes. The research will also weigh the potential public health benefits of reducing the supply of methamphetamine against the potential loss of profits and consumer welfare caused by reduced access to effective cold medicine.
Finlay said the study will run through May 2014, when he will disseminate his findings to policymakers for use in the debate on how laws and legal practices affect public health outcomes.
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