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Meth, Aisle 4

methIf most Congressmen had their wish, trying to get a hold of that sneezing- coughing- aching- stuffy- head- fever- so- you- can- rest- medicine might give you a larger headache than you had to start with.

More than twenty states are trying to pass legislation that would make cold medicines like Nyquil and Tylenol PM much harder to obtain. Is it a Congressional conspiracy attempting to deprive you of sleep and comfort? No.

The bills come in response to a booming methamphetamine market, with the drugs spreading rapidly into streets and high schools throughout the country, both rural and urban. What does that have to do with some nasty-tasting Nyquill? Everything.

Strong cold medicines like Nyquil contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the making of methamphetamine. And while some 80 percent of methamphetamines (also known as speed or crystal meth) is smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico or made in super-labs in California’s Central Valley, the rest is made by teens and adults everywhere from a car trunk to a bathroom stall. The new proposed laws come after witnessing just how easy it is for residents to grab 15 boxes of Tylenol PM and start making meth.

While authorities can crack down on someone attempting to leave their local Target with enough medicine to clear the noses of 300 of their closest friends, it hasn’t been so easy to catch the smarter cons.

Even though stores like Wal-Mart and Target have placed limits on the amount of cold medicine that can be bought per transaction (from 3-5 boxes usually), it hasn’t stopped addicts or meth-cooks from hitting up different stores around town, or just coming back to the same one.

This is exactly what lawmakers are trying to stop. If the legislation is passed, the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine would only be available in pharmacies, not grocery or convenience stores. Also, consumers would have to buy the product from a pharmacist, sign a logbook, and show photo identification.

The push from Congress also comes right on the heels of a new scientific study showing that methamphetamines may increase a person’s susceptibility to infection by crippling the immune system, especially H.I.V.

The drug, with its aforementioned spread, has become the second most frequent reason for seeking substance abuse treatment, behind alcohol. Researchers have also found that the drug suppresses your body’s T cells, those that fight off pathogens (things that make you sick). In people already infected with H.I.V., meth may interfere with medications and accelerate the progression of the disease.

But before any state-wide legislation is passed, large opposition is bound to arise in the form of the pharmaceutical industry as well as grocery and drug store associations, who have rallied to stop attempts like these in the past.

A few states have already started, however. The first state to pass such a law was Oklahoma. According to the Houston Chronicle, the law has decreased the prevalence of meth labs by 80 percent in just the last five months.

Arkansas and Idaho followed in its footsteps, with Iowa and Kansas passing similar bills in recent months. Those truly hit with a bed bug in Iowa can still get their cold medicine in a liquid gel-cap, because meth cannot be cooked in this form.

While it might be some time until the legislation is enacted in Florida, don’t get too used to having that sneezing-coughing-aching-stuffy-head-fever-so-you-can-rest-medicine just a block away.

0 0 610 15 May, 2005 News May 15, 2005

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