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January 25, 2006

Meth and the Mexican mob

Restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine-containing cold medicines seemed like a good way to curb methamphetamine abuse.**

On the upside, moving the meds behind the counter is deterring home cooks, which is clearly a boon to society.

Unfortunately, anecdotal reports also suggest that cooks who can't buy the enough OTC cold meds are now more likely to break into pharmacies to get supplies.

The cold medicine laws aren't actually reducing the meth supply on the streets because the Mexican mafia has already moved in to take up the slack. The stronger imported meth has been linked to an uptick in overdoses.

Hat tip to Steve Gilliard.

**Update: Let me rephrase that. The War on Sniffles seemed like a good way to curb one of the major harms associated with methamphetamines, namely home cooking, at least to me. Meth cooking is a fire hazard and an environmental threat. So, I was tentatively well-disposed towards any legislation that might reduce the incidence of DIY synthesis.


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I saw a story on our local new last night saying meth producers were dumping the stuff into the water system at various points and its actually eroding some parts of the system. The local authorities have gone to checking all the pumps twice a week and they're flushing a huge amount of additional water into the system to dilute what's there.

"Restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine-containing cold medicines" didn't seem "like a good way to curb methamphetamine abuse" to everyone. Remember this the next time someone suggests the best solution for a social problem is a general restriction on liberty.

I'm generally of the "legalize it all" school of thought, meth included. I guess I didn't really expect the restriction of cold meds to reduce the supply of meth on the streets, seeing as the demand would remain unchanged and there were always viable alternative supplies.

Still, I was willing to give the pseudoephedrine restrictions a chance because the worst thing about meth is the illicit labs--explosions, child endangerment, pollution, etc.

I don't think that putting cold meds behind the counter is a serious restriction of liberty. Plenty of OTC meds are regulated for the good of the consumer and/or society at large, including really innocuous stuff like ferrous gluconate iron supplements (at least in British Columbia). It's not so terrible to ask people to ask the pharmacist. I wouldn't have pushed for that kind of regulation, but I don't think it's a violation of anyone's rights to mandate that kind of restriction.

Drugs, pornography, gambling, abortion. We spend billions every year combatting, regulating, incarcerating and litigating over human desires and personal choices. Almost all of it is wasted money, much of it driven by the theocratic moralizers running the government. It's been so for ages and will be so for ages more. Too bad we can't take a page from some of our Northern European brethren and legalize it all then deal with the small minority having problems with their expanded license.

Legalize it, and tax it to help pay for the treatment of addicts. I've seen the ravages of hard-drug abuse up close, and it's not pleasant. (Serious meth abuse in partuclar scares the shit out of me, because that stuff makes people dangerous crazy.) If we legalize everything, we might double or tripple the number of serious addicts. But by eliminating most of the crime surrounding distribution and sale--including lots of gang-related stuff--I envision a net good. The people who become addicts, where they would not had the drug remained illegal, deserve our sympathy and easy access to treatment for their addiction.

I'm curious: what exactly would you propose as a regulatory structure for legalized meth, beyond heay taxation? Where would people buy it? Would they need to go through doctors? What would be the liability of meth producers to addicts or people harmed by the meth? What if it was unexpectedly strong meth?

I wasn't trying to make the point that putting cold medicines behind the counter was a particularly serious restriction on liberty. What I wanted to suggest was that the use of any restriction on liberty to solve a social problem quite often proves ineffective and has unitended consequences. Given that, it seems to me that rather than somewhat casually supposing the restriction on these medicines might be a good idea, a more skeptical view (such as that taken by Radley Balko in the link I supplied) would have served you better in your assessment of the regulation.

As Prohibition helped give rise to powerful organized crime families in the Untied States, and the war on drugs gave cocaine cartles immense destructrive power in Columbia, this apparently trivial action regarding OTC cold medication seems to benefit the Mexican Mafia, to the detriment of citizens in the U.S. and Mexico. That's a lesson worth attending to.

Is "restriction on liberty" redundant?

Meth already is legal, as a prescription drug for the treatment of narcolepsy & a few other conditions where an especially strong stimulant is indicated, marketed under the trade name Desoxyn. Other slightly less powerful amphetamines are widely prescribed for the treatment of the so-called ADD & the regulatory structures in place for controlling them seem to work regardless of your opinion of their psychiatric efficacy.Legalization, aside from being the enlightened & humane necessity, will become an economic necessity only after the majority realizes the War On Drugs is just another trillion dollar cashcow benefiting its stockholders. Where someone finds the statistic that legalization will triple the number of addicts is the same place someone finds Fox News. & by the way, the mafia ain't Mexican, Lindsay, it's a bank in New York City.

I don't think that putting cold meds behind the counter is a serious restriction of liberty...It's not so terrible to ask people to ask the pharmacist.

In general, I'd agree with you. But, at least where I live, most of the stores keep condoms under lock and key, requiring one to ask the pharmacist, which I do think is ridiculous and annoying,and downright stupid. That a friend tells me this is because people would steal condoms if they weren't locked up because they are too embarrassed to buy them makes it all the more idiotic. I'll leave to Lindsay, though, to determine whether this is an infringement on liberty or just dumb.


The difference that I see between putting condoms behind the counter and putting cold medicine behind the counter is the social stigma that's so often applied to sex, especially for women.

As you point out, putting the condoms behind the counter is a virtual acknowledgement of the stigma, and makes the practice of removing them from the shelves indefensible.

When I buy razors at Walgreen's, I have to get them from a special dispenser that prevents theft. Most other items will set off an alarm if I stroll out with them without paying. If the goal was really theft prevention, instead of sex prevention, I would think that stores would adopt one of these antitheft methods.

You all seem to be missing a basic point. Pseudoephedrine containing cold medicines are legal and have been for decades. The average American citiizen buys these legal medicications to breath. People who buy it to make Meth do so with criminal intent.

Under the Bush administration, the average American citizen is lumped into the same category as criminals. It is a perspective that suggests like little children we must all be monitored and "protected" by Big Daddy in Washington, least we all have Bad Intent. Just keep sex, drugs, and rock and roll out of our way and we will behave. How free is that?

Further, and I think this is sinister on the part of the Bush government, these over the counter drugs are being lumped in with the criminal activity of terrorism. It is one small step in restricting many behaviors. What will be next? Still, the Bushie's are not content to have the Pseudoephedrines moved behind the counter. They are taking it a step beyond. The Home Land Security Act (which is being used as the vehicle to place restrictions on freedom) includes a provision that when one buys a cold or sinus medication containing pseudoephedrine, said buyer will be required to 1) show ID, 2)limited in the amount one can purchase, and 3) have one's medical purcahses monitored by the government. Again, how free is that?

Now for the impact on one average American. I admit bias. I have used Actifed or some form of it for over 30 years. Nothing else works to tame my allergies and my doctors have long since given up finding a replacement. If these restricitons pass I would not be able to legally procure, over the counter, enough medication to take me through an average month. This will mean I can't breath. That is scary. My allergies terriorize me far more than any thought of a foriegn attack, or even of people using Meth. I don't mind asking behind the counter, although it is a pain in the neck (long lines), I do mind being treated like a criminal, have my supply limited, showing ID, and having my medical purchases or any purchases for that matter, subject to government tracking.

Focusing on cold and sinus medication as a method of dealing with drug trafficing is the wrong focus. Drug use is a sympotom of a wider problem, a multivarient issue that makes this Forest Gump solution like looking for a single drop of water in the Pacific ocean. Or pouring cement down Mt. Saint Helen's in the hope of preventing an eruption. I encourage you to think about all possible causes and consequances before coming to the conclusions considered here.

The talking point of harm
reduction is valid.
The linking of over the counter
medication as a precurson to
heavier involvement on a personal level is not valid.
The OTC medication as a ingredient to the illisit product is valid. However what I think is not important.
What is important is the Blog
readers that come here and read and perhaps comment. One would hope that all come away with a more definative proactive position ; wheiter in thought
word or deed.
It is a credit to Lindsey
(**Update: Let me rephrase that. The War on Sniffles seemed like a good way to curb one of the major harms associated with methamphetamines, namely home cooking, at least to me.)
to voice an Opinion Note.
The results are up to us. rtg.

What do you do if you have a large family and you are all sick. My husband almost flew over the counter and strangled the cashier at Wal-Mart while trying to buy two boxes last night. Only 20 pills in a box for a family that is all sick!

i am or was an over the road coast to coast driver nc. to ca. every week till first they said they wer fedaraleigh then it was dot then it was mexican mob they cloan my foan they controalled what i could and could not do in all was I MEEN ALL WAS OK take it like u wont to driver from 96 till now no moor it aint all was the other person

It's amazing that in "the land of the free", trivial things like this can happen. Here in Australia there are no restrictions on these drugs and they are all available direct to the consumer on a shelf, not behind the counter. If our PM, John Howard, tried to pass law's similar to this, I don't think it would work. So the lady whose husband tried to buy two boxes of medicine over the counter could get as much as he needed for his family. If someone's going to abuse a drug then that's their problem, why should those people make life harder for the rest of us?

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