Ky. Voices: Fight meth by restricting purchase of key ingredient

A member of the Lexington police department's meth lab team removed a container from a meth lab located in a hotel room.
A member of the Lexington police department's meth lab team removed a container from a meth lab located in a hotel room.

At issue | Jan. 9 commentary by Keith Cain, "Taming meth menace; requiring cold meds prescriptions not the answer"

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain suggests that Kentucky's methamphetamine problem is best combated by the continued use of the MethCheck network, which is now known as the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx).

While MethCheck might be a good tool to block or limit the sale of pseudoephedrine (PSE) to individuals who are attempting to purchase PSE over the legal limit, it does not stop "smurfing."

Smurfing is the act of individuals purchasing the legal limit of PSE and in turn selling it to a third party, with the full knowledge that it is going to be utilized in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

There are two sides to every issue and, unfortunately, the legitimate consumer of PSE, an ingredient also used in over-the-counter cold medicines, is caught in the middle,

The pharmaceutical industry is making over $800 million a year from the sale of pseudoephedrine (PSE), and it is this same industry that is paying for the NPLEx system that Cain lauds as the best method to rein in our methamphetamine problem. Their intentions do not serve the best interest of the commonwealth nor of the communities and families already devastated by the scourge of meth.

In over 46 years in law enforcement, I have not seen a more destructive and addictive drug than methamphetamine.

We had no meth problem until 1976 when, against the advice of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration removed PSE from prescription status to over-the-counter status.

Since MethCheck started in 2008, we have continued to see a rise in meth labs in Kentucky. A record year was seen in 2010 when over 1,000 meth labs were discovered and dismantled.

These numbers speak for themselves, and they do not accurately reflect the true extent of the problem in Kentucky. If anything, law enforcement is undercounting the actual number of labs in the commonwealth.

In addition, methamphetamine costs our state and local governments over $48 million annually. These labs create toxic waste that contaminates homes and the children in them.

In 2009, 111 children were contaminated in homes that contained meth labs, and a 22-month old toddler died after ingesting drain cleaner that was being used to manufacture meth.

It is therefore apparent that the only way to prevent the continued destruction caused by meth is to require prescriptions for PSE.

Oregon was the first state to do so, and the results have been phenomenal. Oregon had the same issues that we have, and in 2005 made PSE available by prescription.

In 2010, Oregon discovered 10 labs; none of these resulted from PSE purchased in that state. Mississippi is the second state to require prescriptions. Since the new law took effect July 1, the state has seen a 68 percent reduction in meth labs in just five months.

Kentucky Sen. Tom Jensen has filed Senate Bill 45, requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine and related drugs. The pharmaceutical industry and Sheriff Cain would have you think this legislation would not impact the meth problem and would have a harmful effect on the legitimate consumer, whereas Oregon and Mississippi have shown that scheduling is the only way to end the meth problem.

The legitimate consumers in both states have seen little inconvenience with respect to their access to the cold medication.

The time is now to end the methamphetamine problem in Kentucky and I urge people to contact their senators and representatives and urge them to support Senate Bill 45.

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