New War On Drugs

There is a new fight in the war on drugs. The battle brewing is one to make pseudoephedrine a controlled substance.

After the law went into effect, there was no public outcry, most consumers had already switched to over the counter alternatives, the increased workload on pharmacists didn't occur, the increased workload on doctors and emergency rooms never occurred, Medicaid costs only slightly increased with a statewide impact was less than $8,000 per year, the effect on the poor, according to the Director of Northwest Human Services which runs free clinics and homeless shelters in Salem, Oregon, has not heard a word from their patients or providers, and the cost of PSE in Oregon is actually less than in some of its neighboring states. The most stunning number, in 2005 when the law was passed in Oregon, the methamphetamine lab production was at 189 for the year. It was down significantly from 2004. After the law went into effect in 2006, the methamphetamine lab production went to 55. In 2010, Oregon seized only 12 methamphetamine labs. Contrast that to over 1,000 methamphetamine labs in Kentucky.

In 2010, Mississippi followed Oregon's lead and returned PSE to a prescription drug, as it was prior to 1976. The Mississippi legislation went into effect on July 1, 2010, and that state has already seen the same stunning successful results experienced in Oregon, with a nearly 70 percent drop in meth lab incidents in just six short months. Kentucky has just filed legislation in the General Assembly to make PSE prescription only. Thomas Loving, Executive Director of KNOA stated, "We look forward to similar results with the passage of HB 15 and/or SB 45 filed in the Kentucky General Assembly."

According to a 2009 report issued by National Methamphetamine and Pharmaceuticals Initiative (NMPI), The NMPI Advisory Board supports "Prescription Only" over the use of tracking databases as the only effective means to prevent illicit methamphetamine labs in the United States.

  • "Prescription Only" is the only proven tool that keeps legitimate consumer access while preventing methamphetamine labs.
  • "Prescription Only" addresses "smurfer sophistication" at all levels in all states.
  • "Prescription Only" addresses precursor demand no matter what size methamphetamine labs are being supplied, in the same state or another state.

Now the battle to make PSE prescription only is between law enforcement and the pharmaceutical lobbyists. Sgt. Salyards stated, "Scheduling would only affect 15 over the counter products and leave 100s on the shelf not scheduled; these 15 products bring the industry $600-$800 million a year in sales. Note: electronic tracking companies are paid per sales transaction they track; do you think they want to see scheduling?" He also adds, "We have tried putting PSE behind the counter, which worked for a while until meth makers figured out how to get around the system with smurfing. Kentucky has tried electronic tracking; it does not reduce methamphetamine labs. It is time to try a real solution for the meth lab problem, scheduling."

As law enforcement officers, this is an utmost important issue and one that requires our attention into the New Year. I challenge all state and federal legislators across the United States to seriously look at this issue. We need these laws to protect our first responders, the public, and children trapped in this cycle of violence. Other methods have been approached and those seem to work temporarily. It's apparent with the data provided by Oregon and Mississippi that returning PSE to a prescription only drug can significantly reduce methamphetamine lab production. Mexico has banned PSE entirely. It's time for state and federal legislators to listen to the front line men and women in this battle to fight methamphetamine production, and not the pharmaceutical lobbyists.

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