Cold and flu sufferers could be plagued by more than just the bug causing their misery if some lawmakers have their way. They will have to jump through even more hoops to get the over-the-counter drugs they need to overcome their maladies because some are still being used to manufacture methamphetamine.
According to a report in the Birmingham News lawmakers are trying to figure out if they need to create tougher laws to try and control law breakers.
The National Substance Abuse Index says the Alabama meth problem is not something that originates just within the state. “Drugs are trafficked into Alabama via Colombian, Mexican, and Caribbean Drug Trafficking Groups along with regional and local criminal organizations,” the organization reports on its web site. “Mexican, Caribbean and regional criminal organizations have been found to operate extensive distribution networks within Alabama . On a smaller scale Motorcycle Gangs are also supplying meth through their own networks in the state. The incidence of local Clandestine Meth Labs is increasing.“
Alabama has a current monitoring program limiting the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine-laced cold medicine to 3.6 grams per day per person and not more than 9 grams every 30-days period. That is about 75 Sudafed 12 Hour tablets in 30 days. The current laws limit a family four to a nine day supply of pseudoephedrine per person.
The state system reports more than 70,000 boxes of the drugs were blocked from sale so far this year.
Some lawmakers point to that statistic as a reason to crack down harder on the sales of such “precursor” drugs. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are main ingredients used in making meth.
What the number does not say is … how many of those blocked sales were legitimate attempts to buy the drugs to treat a bout with the sniffles? Critics question where the limits should be for law abiding cold victims.
Meth makers have found ways around the law by “smurfing,” using multiple people to buy excess quantities of the drugs to supply meth labs.
Some lawmakers like Russellville Democratic Senator Roger Bedford say the state system to fight meth abuse is broken. He told the Birmingham News, “To solve this problem we need to make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug.“
He plans to push another bill in the next legislative session to require a doctor’s prescription for current over-the-counter drugs containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or a similar drug, phenylpropanolamine.
This is not the first time such a bill has been proposed in the Alabama legislature. Only two other states have taken such steps.
The Alabama District Attorneys Association has launched an awareness campaign called Zerometh. “Meth is the number one drug related issue for law enforcement officials in Alabama,” says the group’s web site.
According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency statistics there were 11,239 meth clandestine laboratory incidents nationwide in 2010, including all meth incidents, including labs, “dumpsites” or “chemical and glassware” seizures. Of those, 666 were in Alabama.
The DEA’s National Drug Threat Assessment report says overall, “The availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing. In fact, in 2009 the prevalence of four of the five major drugs—heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine)—was widespread and increasing in some areas.”
The report also noted significant trends in drug abuse:
– Increased heroin availability of higher purity and lower prices and more heroin overdoses and deaths were linked to increased heroin production in Mexico from 17 tons in 2007 to 38 tons in 2008.
– Despite recent Mexican government efforts to prohibit the import of methamphetamine precursor chemicals, methamphetamine availability increased as the result of higher production in Mexico using alternative, less-efficient precursors. Those drugs in up in the U.S.
The Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center reports there were 13,172 drug arrests reported in 2010 in the state. Of those, 15% were for sale of drugs and 85% were for possession.
The arrests break down like this:
– Opium or cocaine and their derivatives such as morphine, heroin, codeine, and “crack” sales: 424; possession: 2,318; total arrests: 2,742
– Marijuana sales: 302; possession: 6,815; total arrests: 7,117
– Synthetic narcotics which are manufactured narcotics which cause true drug addiction such as Demerol and methadone sales: 223; possession: 870; total arrests: 1,093
– Other dangerous non-narcotic drugs including barbiturates, amphetamines and methamphetamine sales: 980 possession 1,240; total arrests: 2,220