THEIR VIEW: It's time to do more about meth
By DON PERDUE CHARLESTON -- Methamphetamine is a growing problem in West Virginia and is wrecking lives and adding to health care costs. The ingredients used in making methamphetamine in this state are not coming from Mexico or Columbia. They are coming from your corner drug store. It is time to do the right thing and put products containing the main ingredient used in the production of meth under the control of doctors and pharmacists. Some claim that requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine-containing drugs is not necessary to effectively curb meth labs. They say that a tracking system that electronically records purchases of pseudoephedrine products will solve the problem. But the experience of other states now using this type of tracking system shows that it does not work. Meth cookers use several different individuals (referred to as "smurfs") to buy pseudoephedrine and in this way get around the tracking system. After a tracking system called NPLEX was implemented in the states of Kentucky, Indiana, and South Carolina, there was actually an increase in the number of clandestine meth labs found by police. On the other hand, when the states of Oregon and Mississippi enacted legislation requiring a doctor's prescription for pseudoephedrine products the result was an impressive decline in the number of meth lab arrests, a decline of more than 90 percent in Oregon and 65 percent in Mississippi. The problem of methamphetamine production is too important for a weak approach such as a tracking system that has been shown to be ineffective. The evidence is strongly in favor of requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine products. Interestingly, a West Virginia State Police report shows that of the 47 people charged so far this year on meth lab related charges, 80 percent of them did not have a record of exceeding the currently allowable 30-day limit for pseudoephedrine products in the past year. So obviously they were either using false identification cards for multiple buys or, more likely using others ("smurfs") to buy for them. Yes, this would be inconvenient for some people, but responsible public policy must weigh this minor inconvenience against the consequences of not curbing meth lab proliferation in West Virginia. If a person wants a product containing pseudoephedrine then he or she will still be able to purchase it. And there are many other alternatives in over-the-counter drugs that are effective but cannot be used to cook meth. Just as flour is an essential ingredient in baking a cake, pseudoephedrine is necessary for the illegal practice of "cooking" meth. It is time to put these crooks and cooks out of business in West Virginia! Perdue, a Democrat, represents Wayne County in the West Virginia House of Delegates.