We're Making Pharmacists Act Like Cops
Whether at the state or national level, our elected representatives need to stop the nonsense by either requiring a prescription to buy pseudoephedrine or putting the cold medication back on the shelves.
Unfortunately, the second option isn't going happen. The first probably won't either.
Rather, policymakers seem intent on creating a system in which pharmacists are turned into police officers and law-abiding cold sufferers are under government suspicion.
After all, politicians need a looming drug scourge the way that the morning television news shows need an abducted child or a missing suburbanite wife. Fear isn't just an emotion; in our modern world, it's become a bankable commodity.
Over the last decade, the drug scourge being stopped in its tracks by our noble elected officials is methamphetamine abuse. Cold remedies containing pseudophedrine can be cooked down into meth, a highly addictive stimulant.
In 2005, North Carolina put pseudophedrine cold medicines behind pharmacy counters and required buyers to sign a registry when purchasing them.
In January, a new law will require pharmacists to plug the name of purchasers into a national database. The computerized database will notify pharmacists when a customer has exceeded a monthly quota that serves as indicator that the purchase is being made to feed a meth lab. It then sends a message to halt the sale.
Meanwhile, leaders of the state House have formed a special committee to continue studying methamphetamine abuse.
Just because the predicted armies of zombie-like meth users, with their brown teeth, disheveled hair and faraway eyes, aren't wandering downtowns from Murphy to Manteo doesn't mean that they won't.
An SBI agent recently told the committee that 317 meth labs have been found in the state this year. He may not have told them that some of those "labs" consisted of a soda bottle, some ammonia and a propane lighter.
Lost in the discussion is that plenty of other readily available, over-the-counter products can be used as mind-altering drugs. Huffing glue and gasoline are only two examples, and like methamphetamine, they can also kill.
In Texas, 144 deaths were attributed to inhalant abuse over a decade. Most of those who died were teens.
So where is the outcry to create some new regulatory regime to purchase glue and gasoline? If pharmacists can be converted into cops, why not hardware store owners and convenience store clerks?
What our elected officials can't overcome is an inconvenient fact: Some percentage of people are going to abuse drugs, and those who do will find a way to get their hands on their drug of choice.
Legislators would do better to spend their time and our tax dollars giving kids an honest education about the horrors of drug abuse.
Or they should - as some legislators proposed in the spring - put pseudophedrine completely behind the counter by requiring a doctor's prescription.
By the way, did you know that prescription drugs were responsible for the majority of the 37,485 drug-related deaths in the United States in 2009?
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
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