Methamphetamine abuse and manufacture in makeshift home labs continues to threaten American communities throughout the nation. Although the recent activity of some state-wide legislators and law enforcement agencies in putting out of reach the over-the-counter drugs used in make meth (including Sudafed and Nyquil containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine) has spurred conflict, one cannot deny that such measures would minimally prevent the production of crystal meth.
Do the inconveniences of over-the-counter cold medicine prescription requirements outweigh the potential benefits?
State-by-State Legislation is Required
In an attempt to severely combat the serious meth epidemic, states like Oregon and Mississippi have successfully enacted bills which require the issue of prescriptions for distribution of cold medicine products containing pseudoephedrine. While many are jumping on the bandwagon, opposing states have opted for real-time tracking systems for such over-the-counter cold products.
Colorado lawmakers rejected such legislation in 2011, citing the burden would be too great for consumers and retailers along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be lost in sales taxes. Opponents of the bill also cited increased health costs due to the fact the people would have to go to the doctor just to relieve a runny nose. Other critics of cold medicine prescription requirements feel that drug manufacturers will go to extreme lengths to make meth, whether a prescription is an obstacle or not.
A number of states have either followed suit, passing legislation requiring prescriptions for the over-the-counter drugs, or minimally by requiring pharmacies that sell ephedrine and pseudoephedrine to keep the drugs locked up or behind the counter. Some pharmacies now require the customer to show identification, while others limit the amount of cold medicines which can be purchased at one time.
However meth manufacturers have found ways around this by sending out small armies of people to different pharmacies to purchase the legal amounts ephedrine and pseudoephedrine which can be used to make the drug, or by crossing state lines to obtain the products.
Mississippi law enforcement praises this legislation. Marshall Fisher, Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, said the state of Mississippi saw a 93% drop in the number of operational meth labs since the law was enacted a few years ago.
Fisher believes that if neighboring states and federal-level agencies would implement such policies nationwide, the meth epidemic improvements would be seen large-scale.
Why is Meth So Addictive?
It is the sudden and vast production of dopamine caused by meth use that makes the drug so enticing and addictive. Dr. Richard Rawson at UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs explains: “…Sex causes dopamine levels to jump from 100 to 200 units, and cocaine causes them to spike to 350 units. With methamphetamine you get a release from the base level to about 1,250 units.”
Crystal meth manufacturers are largely addicts struggling with severe dependency to the powerful amphetamine drug. If key ephedrine-containing over-the-counter drugs require prescriptions, this will undoubtedly mean more control and regulation. This does, however, open the door to additional potential issues like doctor shopping and fraudulent prescriptions. The overwhelming and addictive properties of meth will drive its addicts to extreme lengths in pursuit of the drug.
Most importantly, know the symptoms of meth abuse and watch for warning signs amongst your loved ones. Erratic behavior, odd sleeping patterns (or a lack of sleep), severe mood swings, anxiety and physical deterioration can be early indications of meth use. For more information on methamphetamine addiction and treatment, call 1-800-468-6933.