Cold med prescription needed to fight meth

For the third year in a row, the legislature has the opportunity to take meaningful action to reduce the number of methamphetamine labs in Kentucky.

The opportunity comes in the form of bills to require a prescription for medicines containing pseudoephedrine, one of the key ingredients of meth, The drug is now available in many cold medications sold without prescriptions. With reduced access to pseudoephedrine, both theory and experience predict, meth producers will be less able to carry out their activity in the state.

The opposition to this measure is driven largely by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents makers of cold remedies and was the top lobbying spender in 2011,

The arguments against this measure generally include these points: most meth in the United States is imported from Mexico so this wouldn't stop meth abuse; this measure would unfairly penalize law-abiding citizens by making it more expensive and inconvenient to obtain common cold medicines; and a counter measure that blocks known meth offenders from having non-prescription access to pseudoephedrine but not the general public could limit production without inconveniencing everyone.

Take the last point first: Meth producers generally don't buy the pseudoephedrine themselves, they hire people to do that, a practice called "smurfing," so it's hard to believe that would have much impact on meth production.

In response to the other two points, it's important to understand that this proposed restriction is more about reducing meth production than meth use. Meth abuse is a terrible scourge but meth production in and of itself is a horror.

Meth labs are easy to set up, portable and extraordinarily dangerous. They expose anyone around them, including children, to dangerous fumes, can explode causing fires and injury and are expensive to clean up.

Law-abiding citizens are already shouldering a burden from meth labs. Anyone near a lab can suffer damage to health and property. All taxpayers suffer when public funds are diverted to police efforts to find the labs and the huge costs to clean them up, not to mention the human costs associated with contact with meth production.

It's not fair and it's inconvenient, but it's our reality. The General Assembly can alter that reality for the better, and it should.