Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry signed a law on Wednesday that restricts sales of some popular over-the-counter cold medicines because they can be used as a key ingredient in home-cooked, illegal methamphetamine.
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry signed a law on Wednesday that restricts sales of some popular over-the-counter cold medicines because they can be used as a key ingredient in home-cooked, illegal methamphetamine. The law is the first of its kind in the United States and restricts the sales of cold tablets made primarily with pseudoephedrine, which is a widely used ingredient in decongestants such as Sudafed from Pfizer Inc. The law, which takes effect immediately, restricts the sale of tablets of pseudoephedrine to pharmacies. People buying the pills have to show identification, sign a log book and are restricted to purchasing nine grams — or 300, 30-mg tablets — a month. The rules may seem excessive, Oklahoma officials said, but the problem of methamphetamine production is extensive. The drug that sometimes goes by the names of “crank,” “crystal,” “meth” and “speed” is cheap and relatively simple to produce. Several other states are considering measures to cut down on methamphetamine production by restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine. “Other states are already contacting us because they believe, as we do, that this legislation is the only way to impact the number of illegal meth labs,” Henry, a Democrat, said after signing the measure into law. Oklahoma is one of the top states in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, with more than 1,300 drug labs seized in 2003, state law enforcement officials said. TRAGIC TOLL Other states looking at laws to restrict pseudoephedrine include Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Iowa. “Pfizer understands the tragic toll that methamphetamine has taken in Oklahoma and many other communities,” a Pfizer spokesman said. “We and others in the industry have been working closely with state and local officials across the country in a mutual battle to address this problem, without unduly restricting access to safe and effective medicines like Sudafed that millions of law-abiding consumers rely on,” he said.Apart from the problems of illegal drugs, small meth labs can produce toxic chemicals and production also entails a high risk for explosions. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, methamphetamine has hit America’s small towns hard. “Its recipe is relatively easy; anyone who can read and measure can make methamphetamine,” Rogelio Guevara, told a U.S. House committee last July when he was the DEA’s chief of operations. “…ingredients are not only readily available, but also inexpensive,” he said. Items used in producing the drugs include rock salt, battery acid, red phosphorous road flares and anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer not readily available for purchase but found in storage tanks in many rural communities, he said. The highly addictive drug is a powerful stimulant that enhances mood and body movement. Prolonged use can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease — a severe movement disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (Source: Reuters Health, April 2004)