|In the wake of proposals by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster to make cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine available by prescription only, most local business owners and law enforcement officials are showing support for the plan, which would further restrict the access to the main ingredient used in teh manufacture of methamphetamine..|
John Bruner, of Bruner's Pharmacy in Monett, is of two minds concerning the matter.
"I am rarely in favor of the government being involved, but we see so much of the bad [things] from meth in Barry and Lawrence counties," he said. "I think I'm in favor of them doing it and nipping it in the bud."
Bruner said he was concerned about the added financial impact the measure could have on his customers who are legitimately seeking the medication, as well as the pharmacies stocking it.
"It will put a huge burden on the rest of the population," Bruner said, "with the added cost of a doctor's visit on top of the medicine."
In 2005, Missouri lawmakers mandated that all pharmacies utilize a National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEX), a statewide database used to track the number of pseudoephedrine purchases made by individuals.
"Not all pharmacies have that in place yet," Bruner said. "We're still waiting on the equipment.
"On one hand I'd like to see them give the database a fair shot, say six months or so, to see if it is working," he continued. "On the other hand, with the prescription proposal, that's six months we would have to keep young people from getting addicted to this dangerous drug."
Given the widespread use of methamphetamine in the Barry and Lawrence County areas, Bruner sees the proposal as a good thing.
"Seeing first hand what happens to these kids, I'm in favor of passing the proposal and nipping this in the bud."
Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay is also mixed in his feelings about taking pseudoephedrine off the shelves.
"I don't think the problem has gotten any bigger in Lawrence County," DeLay said. "I have officers taking down one or two labs a week. They're working with various drug task forces and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Adminis-tration).
"Using the NPLEX system is making it easier for law enforcement officials to track purchases of pseudoephedrine," DeLay continued. "What these cooks don't know is that even if a pharmacy isn't online with the NPLEX system as yet, officers still go around picking up the drug logs. It may take us a little longer to track them down, but we're doing it."
The most popular methods of making the drug these days is the "shake and bake" method, using a pop bottle for easy production. The main ingredient is still pseudoephedrine, and although quicker, the mobile labs are far more dangerous than the meth cook making the product in his garage.
DeLay's concern was not only making good use of the automated system and the logs, but giving law enforcement and the judicial system "some teeth" in prosecuting meth cooks.
"We see 200 to 300 people purchasing pseudoephedrine," he said. "Some of those are our people and some are from out of the area who are coming in to buy cold pills. And our people go other places to buy theirs, as well.
"The [NPLEX] system will make a huge difference as well," DeLay continued. "As these labs are exposed, law enforcement will be busting a lot more of these labs."
Making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription would be a large step in making the primary ingredient harder to obtain by those who abuse the medications.
"I'm all for what help we can get in combating the drug side of it. I appreciate the governor and legislature making it harder on the meth cooks," DeLay said. "But I think we'll be punishing the good people, who use the medications legitimately, for what the bad people are doing."
DeLay speculated that a majority of the prisoners in the Lawrence County jail have been involved with the drug.
"Whether they are making it or just took a couple of hits at one time or another, I imagine most of them have had some contact with meth," he said. "You can tell by their teeth, skin and face. It's prevalent out there."
John Luckey, a member of the Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force, is strongly in favor of the proposal.
"Absolutely," he said. "I've been fighting this war for 15 years. I don't see anything happening without removing pseudoephedrine from the shelves."
Luckey said the most popular form of methamphetamine production, "shake and bake" labs, is exploding in southwest Missouri.
"It's easy, it's quick, and if meth cooks want to get around the system, they just find someone who needs $20 or $30 and have them buy [pseudoephedrine,]" he said. "Or they load up a carful of people and go 'smurfing,' where everyone goes into a store and buys the maximum amount they can."
Luckey said it's not only the physical effects of methamphetamine that are dangerous, but the psychological addiction as well.
Meth controls the part of the brain that affects judgment, control reward and control memory. It produces an extreme peak of euphoria that sends the user into a vicious cycle of chasing down the drug to get the extreme high.
"It dominates their thought processes," Luckey said. "Not to mention how it tears up their bodies."
Luckey, an allergy sufferer for several years, believes restricting the availability of pseudoephedrine is the only way to combat the problem on a local level.
"There are alternatives out there for people who need allergy relief," Luckey said. "Or people can go to the doctor for a prescription."
State Representative David Sater, of Cassville, is not in favor of the proposal -- at least for the time being.
"The 2005 bill that required those purchasing pseudoephedrine to sign for it had good intent," Sater said. "But there are not enough law enforcement officials to go around checking signatures every day. The real-time signature tracking program isn't even in effect yet. There has not been enough time to see how it will work."
Sater said that the program can track real time purchases of the product and if an individual tries to purchase more than the allotted amount of cold medications, they would be prohibited from doing so.
Sater is concerned about the potential impact of the proposal on middle and lower class citizens.
"There will be the added cost of having a doctor's visit, and the cost of dispensing the medication as a prescription," Sater said. "We should wait and give the electronic signature system time to work and not penalize the average citizen in the state of Missouri."
Gov. Nixon said his administration will work with legislators to introduce the bill in the upcoming General Assembly to require that pseudoephedrine be obtained only with a valid prescription. The session starts in January. If passed, Missouri would join Oregon and Mississippi as the only states that currently have such a requirement.