West Virginia legislators today introduced a bill that will dramatically reduce “meth labs” and protect public health by making products containing the substance pseudoephedrine prescription-only medications.
Over the last three decades throughout the United States, methamphetamine has created a large economic strain on our often fragile system. In a 2005 Rand Corporation report, the overall burden of methamphetamine was estimated to be $23.4 billion a year and growing. This epidemic has spread from the West Coast to the South and Midwest and is now clearly affecting many areas of West Virginia.
Much of this highly addictive substance is manufactured illicitly from pseudoephedrine (PSE), a chemical in some cold medicines. These “meth labs” have increased over 50% in West Virginia in the last year despite the fact that since 2005 PSE has been placed behind the counter with purchases registered in a logbook. Even in Kentucky, which was the first state to implement the real time electronic tracking process called NPLEx in 2008, the number of “meth lab” busts continues to grow dramatically. As Stanley Salyards, retired narcotics officer for the Louisville Metro Police says, “Despite all our hopes in Kentucky, NPLEx has shown little real benefit in stopping these illicit purchases of PSE and we now have many more resultant fires, explosions, toxic sites, and abused and neglected children than before.” In fact, credible data from Kentucky and other NPLEx states like Missouri and Oklahoma are highly suggestive that 60-80% of sales of PSE products are now diverted for methamphetamine production.
To more effectively deal with this distressing situation, two states, Oregon and Mississippi, now require prescriptions for PSE products and “meth lab” seizures have since plummeted, a far different result than in the NPLEx states. Despite predictions, there has been no public outcry in either Oregon or Mississippi, as most people have simply turned to one of the 125 other effective cold remedies without PSE. The others just obtained prescriptions by call-ins from their doctors, which they seem to prefer to being embarrassed by standing in line to show their ID, while the required tracking forms are filled out. Importantly, there has been no real increase in healthcare costs related to this change, as many feared. What little inconvenience occurs appears to be far outweighed by the many benefits to society.
Furthermore, there are well recognized public health risks for many of our West Virginians with chronic diseases if they take PSE without first consulting a health professional. As Dr. Praveen Arla, a Louisville physician states, “Although PSE has been noted to relieve the congestion of cold-like symptoms, it comes with a host of side effects not seen significantly in the non-PSE products, including increased blood pressure and cardiac rate and rhythm problems. For these reasons PSE is contraindicated in individuals with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and an enlarged prostate, with the potential to cause harm.”
Delegate Anna Border, the wife of the late Delegate Larry Border, who was a passionate advocate for making PSE prescription-only in the 2011 session, says, “I am greatly honored that this legislation will be called ‘The Larry Border Act’ and working to make his dream happen was one of the main reasons I agreed to be appointed to my husband’s seat.”
With “The Larry Border Act”, we have a unique opportunity to protect the children and law enforcement officers who are most affected by these labs, while reducing the use of the life and community-destroying drug methamphetamine by our citizens.
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