Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Last NC meth prescription caused side effects

Last month, a North Carolina legislative panel recommended requiring people to obtain a doctor's prescription in order to purchase over-the-counter cold medicines with pseudoephedrine, an ingredient that can be used to produce methamphetamine. NC already prohibits off-the-shelf sales of cold medicines, limits the number of purchases during a single visit and during a month, requires photo identification for purchases, and requires customers' names to be entered into a central, searchable database. Nevertheless, the legislative panel wants even more onerous and costly restrictions--restrictions that would add the time and expense of a doctor's visit the cost of a cold medicine purchase. The panel cites the continuing rise in meth lab busts as evidence of a worsening meth problem.

What's behind the increase in meth lab busts? Much of the rise can be traced to the very laws that the legislature has already put in place, as NC's Attorney General, Roy Cooper, inadvertently explained in a press release yesterday.
Meth lab busts in North Carolina reached a new high in 2012 as a simpler method for making small amounts of the drug spread statewide. At the same time, electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine buys is helping stop illegal sales and leading law enforcement to more meth labs, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

...State Bureau of Investigation agents responded to 460 meth labs in 2012, compared to 344 meth labs in 2011 and 235 labs in 2010. Approximately 73 percent of the meth labs busted in 2012 used the “one pot” method. One pot labs, also known as shake and bake labs, make smaller amounts of meth than previously seen larger meth labs. Criminals can cook meth in a plastic soda bottle using a small amount of pseudoephedrine, the illegal drug’s key ingredient found in cold medicine.

A new electronic system that tracks purchases of pseudoephedrine is helping to block illegal sales of that key ingredient and lead law enforcement to meth labs, Cooper said. Approximately 54,000 purchases, a total of more than 66,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine, were blocked last year in North Carolina by pharmacies using the system, called the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx). The amount of pseudoephedrine blocked could have been used to make 277 pounds of meth.

Making it harder to get the key ingredient has prevented an increase in the number of larger labs and has forced some criminals to use the one pot method.
There is no evidence that meth production is up. Meth busts have risen because of an increase in enforcement that is tied to last year's law. Also, the vast majority of busts that are being made involve much, much smaller labs than previous years--due also to changes in the law.

The proposed prescription requirement would increase money costs, increase time costs, and generally inconvenience all North Carolininians. The requirement would discourage many, many more legitimate purchases (another cost) than illegitimate purchases. The increase in meth lab busts provides no justification whatsoever for imposing those widespread and very real burdens.