Lawmakers trailing the meth makers
Wednesday, March 13, 2013 11:00 AM
In the latest idea for fighting the scourge of methamphetamine, some officials want the state to require prescriptions to buy cold and allergy remedies that contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient of the meth recipe.
We wouldn't blame most Hoosiers if they initially resent that notion. Who wants to get a pricey prescription to ward off a runny nose and watery eyes? And we don't know if the idea will get any traction at the Indiana Statehouse. But it is clear that lawmakers are trailing meth makers in this ongoing battle.
There's no question we're in a fight.
Acccording to a report by Tom Davies of the Associated Press, Indiana has long been at the center of the national meth epidemic. Indiana recorded the third-most meth lab seizures of any state last year. And Indiana already has laws on the books that limit purchases of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and require pharmacies to track sales of the substances. (Convenience stores that sell only small packages are exempt.)
The casualty list extends far beyond the users. It's well known that making meth requires a toxic stew of ingredients that can cause explosions and leave chemical wastes.
State police estimate that the average cleanup cost for a meth lab is about $2,280, according to Davies' report, and that does not include costs for social service agencies, jail time or medical care for the user.
With that in mind, some Indiana leaders are looking at the experience of other states. (Federal law already requires stores to keep pseudoephedrine-based products behind the counter.) Two states - Mississippi and Oregon - require prescriptions for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Those two have seen substantial drops in meth lab seizures. Oregon had nine last year. Mississippi had five. Indiana, meanwhile, had 1,429 meth lab incidents - trailing only Missouri and Tennessee.
Still, it seems unfair to punish law-abiding Hoosiers with higher costs and more headaches just because they need to buy cold medicine.
There's another idea afoot in the Legislature. It would impose tighter limits on how much of the substances a person could buy, and impose longer prison sentences on those who purchase 10 grams or more of the medication for a meth maker.
We doubt that the Legislature will impose the prescription requirement upon Hoosiers. Tougher limits and sentences seem more likely options. But we doubt that either will be a long-term solution to stop people who are desperate to make, sell, buy and use illegal drugs.
When it comes to that fight, lawmakers always seem to be one step behind the meth makers.