Reduced Chemical Access May Lower Cocaine, Meth Abuse

Bottle of pills sitting on pharmacy counterLegal regulations to limit access to chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine and cocaine lowered the abuse of both drugs, according to a study published in the journal Addiction. The two precursor chemicals linked to reduced drug access are pseudoephedrine for methamphetamine and sodium permanganate for cocaine.

Could Regulating Precursor Chemicals Reduce Drug Abuse?

A number of regulations have reduced access to precursor chemicals during the last decade. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began restricting access to sodium permanganate in 2006. In 2007, Mexican authorities closed a chemical company accused of illegally exporting more than 60 tons of pseudoephedrine to the U.S. Pseudoephedrine is used in many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies as a decongestant, so it remains widely available. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the number of pseudoephedrine-based products customers can purchase over a 30-day period.

The study tracked use of methamphetamine and cocaine from March 2007 to December 2014, following the immediate aftermath of decreased access to precursor chemicals.

Cocaine use began declining almost immediately with new sodium permanganate regulations. Use of the drug dropped by approximately 1.9 million past-year users, a decline of 32%. Past-month use of cocaine declined by almost 700,000 users, a drop of 29%.

Methamphetamine declined with the closure of the Mexican chemical company. Past-year use of the drug decreased by almost 500,000 (35%), and past-month use decreased by more than 277,000 (45%). These numbers remained steady for most of the study period, though there was an increase in methamphetamine use in 2013.

Finding Ways to Reduce Drug Abuse

The study’s authors say strategies targeting individuals, including public health campaigns and interventions from medical professionals, have not effectively reduced drug use or abuse. They suggest legal regulations rendering drugs inaccessible or less accessible might produce better public health outcomes.

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found 440,000 Americans (0.2%) used methamphetamine in the past month. Usage statistics for cocaine were higher, with 1.4% of 18-to-25-year-olds using cocaine in the past month, and 0.5% of people older than 26 admitting to past-month cocaine use.


  1. Cocaine. (2016, June 6). Retrieved from
  2. Cunningham, J. K., Liu, L., & Callaghan, R. C. (2016). Essential/precursor chemicals and drug consumption: Impacts of U.S. sodium permanganate and Mexico pseudoephedrine controls on the numbers of U.S. cocaine and methamphetamine users. Addiction. doi:10.1111/add.13480
  3. Reduced U.S. cocaine and methamphetamine use linked to controls on commercial chemicals. (2016, August 17). Retrieved from
  4. What is the scope of methamphetamine abuse in the United States? (2013, September). Retrieved from

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  • Leave a Comment
  • nory


    August 24th, 2016 at 10:34 AM

    So silly
    if someone is looking to buy drugs
    then they are gonna buy not produce
    and they can pretty much find the finished product where ever they usually do

  • Dove


    August 24th, 2016 at 2:31 PM

    I still have to wonder what role of any anti drug messages and education will ever have upon this issue. It seems that we could all talk until we are blue in the face and still we would have to deal with drug use and abuse in some way.

  • jackie


    August 25th, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    Come on!
    People have for years been looking for new and creative ways to get aorund the legal regulations.
    ever heard of Prohibition?
    There was probably more alcohol that flowed during the years when drinking was illegal then it ever has when legal.
    Just think about that for a moment and what legalizing some of this action could potentially mean for actually lowering the rates of abuse.

  • Shay


    August 28th, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    If this is true then why all the residual talk about how legalizing drugs actually reduces the number of abusers?

    I don’t get how the argument can swing both ways.

  • Mischa


    August 29th, 2016 at 6:34 PM

    I do agree that backyard garages are not the place to be cooking up drugs, but if they are made and sold legally then there could be more regulation of them and thus less of a chance for someone to get a bad batch and really hurt or kill themselves.
    I know there are people who still won’t go for that, but you know, when we are trying to reduce the numbers who are being harmed then we have to think of all the avenues possible for putting a stop to it.

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