/publications/issue/2005/2005-11/2005-11-5016

Do Pseudoephedrine Restrictions Reduce Meth Availability?

Author: Cmdr John Burke

Several states across the country have restricted the sale of OTC products containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) in an attempt to curb the production of methamphetamine. Oklahoma made PSE a Class V controlled substance, with other states requiring the product to be behind the counter, while reducing the number of pills that can be purchased at one time, and requiring photo identification.

Currently, in my home state of Ohio, we are seeing an influx of meth cookers coming into our state from Indiana and Kentucky to purchase multiple packages of products containing PSE. These bordering states, Indiana and Kentucky, have passed restrictive laws involving the sale of PSE products, while Ohio has bills pending for possible passage by the end of 2005.

Oklahoma authorities report that, although they have had a significant reduction in methamphetamine production within their state, the influx of the Mexican product, known as "crystal," "ice," or "glass," has increased dramatically, however. This product is made in what are called "superlabs" in Mexico, where they have a seemingly endless supply of PSE with little governmental interruption of its production.

In addition, this form of methamphetamine averages a purity level of 75%, while Oklahoma's homegrown product was about 37%, nearly one half of that level. Our drug task force in Ohio recently purchased 6 oz of "crystal" meth and found it had a purity level of 92%.

This result should not be surprising, since methamphetamine addiction has increased dramatically over the past few years in the United States. When this supply is cut off by limiting PSE sales, it creates an illegal market for other suppliers who can provide an eager addicted population with their drug of choice?a drug that is clearly the most addictive on our planet.

So, does this mean that all of the legislation and inconvenience to pharmacies and customers by restricting PSE sales was for nothing? Although this may appear to be the case to some, the drastic reduction in homemade methamphetamine is a very positive development for our society.

The illegal production of methamphetamine in our country by what is referred to as "mom and pop" labs creates a tremendous safety concern for citizens, law enforcement, and fire personnel, and anyone else forced to deal with these individuals. The risk of fire and explosion, improper toxic waste disposal, and endangerment of children in the labs represent 3 major issues that will be drastically reduced if PSE restrictions continue to reduce this form of meth production.

Meanwhile, law enforcement will deal with the Mexican form of methamphetamine the same way we have been attacking the marijuana and cocaine importation from Mexico, which is our greatest source of these illegal substances. Although not as well publicized, large amounts of prescription drugs cross these borders every day and make their way into our society.

As I have mentioned before, it is unfortunate that a minority of the population (meth cookers and users) negatively affect the vast majority of our country, with the restrictions placed on PSE sales at our stores and pharmacies. As we all know, however, that is nothing new.

John Burke, director of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 32-year veteran of law enforcement. For information, he can be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.