TUCSON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Regulations restricting the availability of ingredients needed for the production of cocaine and methamphetamine appear to have reduced the use of both drugs.
U.S. restrictions on access to sodium permanganate and police action in Mexico against the importation of pseudoephedrine have contributed greatly to declines in the number of people in the United States using either cocaine or methamphetamine, University of Arizona researchers report in a study published in the journal Addiction.
Sodium permanganate is an oxidizing agent used for legitimate commercial purposes, but is also used in the production of cocaine. In the early 2000s, the chemical started to be produced on a massive level, until the federal government cracked down on its availability in 2006.
Mexican officials shut down a company accused of importing more 60 tons of pseudoephedrine, one of the precursor chemicals in the production of methamphetamine. The effects of the closure resulted in the supply of the drug, of which Mexico was a primary source for users in the United States, being reduced significantly.
Despite gaps in decreasing the high demand for both drugs in the United States, researchers involved with the study say cutting off some of the supply of chemicals needed for their manufacture has helped reduce the number of people using either substance.
"Strategies directed toward individual users -- information campaigns and direct medical care, for example -- have not yet fully addressed the public health problem of cocaine and methamphetamine misuse," Dr. James Cunningham, a social epidemiologist at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine, said in a press release. "Additional approaches are needed. Chemical controls are relatively inexpensive. And there's room to improve them through better international cooperation."
For the study, researchers analyzed data on 723,283 participants' past-year and past-month consumption of either drug collected as part of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2014.
The researchers report that since restrictions on sodium permanganate were put in place in 2006, the number of past-year cocaine users dropped by 1.9 million people, or 32 percent, and the number of past-month users went down by 0.7 million people, or 29 percent.
For methamphetamine, researchers report a 35 percent decrease in past-year use since Mexican authorities closed the chemical company importing pseudoephedrine. Past-month users of methamphetamine declined by more than 250,000, or 45 percent.
Choking off supplies for drug production has reduced use, the researchers say, as the number of cocaine users declined steadily with no rebound and the number of people using methamphetamine has mostly stayed lower than before the chemical company's closure.
"Cocaine and methamphetamine production for international markets requires access to massive amounts of legally manufactured chemicals," Cunningham said. "Disrupting that access can be expected to disrupt the drugs' availability and use."