Drug Policy

Congress Restricted Access to Allergy Pills, and All I Got Was This Runny Nose

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The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has delayed release of this year's National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment, which is prepared annually by the National Drug Intelligence Center, "in an apparent effort to minimize diplomatic turbulence with the Mexican government." According to the Times, which obtained a copy of the report, it portrays Mexican drug cartels, the main suppliers of illicit methamphetamine consumed by Americans, "as easily able to circumvent the Mexican government's restrictions on the importing of chemicals used to manufacture meth, which has reached its highest purity and lowest price in the United States since 2005."

The story focuses on the diplomatic angle, but that last part of the sentence is worth repeating, because it illustrates the futility of supply-side efforts to discourage drug use: Meth "has reached its highest purity and lowest price in the United States since 2005." That was the year of the Combat Meth Act, which imposed federal restrictions on the sale of cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, a meth precursor. (Similar, sometimes stricter limits already had been imposed by various states.) "This legislation is a dagger at the heart of meth manufacturing in America," declared Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), co-sponsor of the law. Evidently Talent's objection was not to meth per se but to meth made in America. The main effect of the pseudoephedrine restrictions, aside from inflicting inconvenience and discomfort on millions of cold and allergy sufferers, has been to drive production from domestic mom-and-pop labs to large-scale Mexican traffickers.

Closing down the amateurs might be counted as a gain for health and safety, had the pseudoephedrine crackdown not fostered local production methods that are in some ways more dangerous and environmentally destructive. In any event, this reverse-protectionist policy has nothing to do with "combat[ing] meth," if by that the law's authors meant discouraging use of the drug. A successful effort to reduce supply would have led to higher prices and lower purity, exactly the opposite of what has happened since the government started making it such a pain in the ass to obtain a cheap, effective decongestant.

Since this approach has been a demonstrable failure, drug warriors naturally want to pursue it more aggressively. Forcing people who want cold and allergy pills to ask the pharmacist for them, present ID, enter their names in an electronic register, and abide by quantity limits (at the risk of arrest) has done nothing to reduce meth consumption (which has been declining since 2000 or so). So why not demand that they ask a doctor for permission as well? Surely that will foil those Mexican drug cartels.

NEXT: Legal Challenges to ObamaCare Continue

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  1. “The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has delayed release of this year’s National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment”

    If greenies were legal it would have been done a week ago.

  2. As an allergy sufferer all my life, I say fuck the war on meth (and all drugs for that matter). And, I have people close to me that were meth addicts. I used to get Actifed and it would dry me up in minutes. The shit they sell now is useless. You have to go “behind the counter” to get anything useful. Give your name and shit. So, take meth if you want. Give it free over the counter. I want my Actifed back!

    1. Sure, it starts with a runny nose and Actifed, but have you thought about the children?

      1. All the time Tim. All the time.

        1. Me too.

          1. Begone, ursine fiend!

            1. lol, what is with all these weird comments. Come on now, people…

    2. If you cared about America’s children that are effected by meth addict parents, you would stay within your monthly sudafed ration limits.

  3. highest purity and lowest price

    I’m sold.

  4. They took our jobs!

    1. We’ll find another one or shake ‘n bake!

  5. This is just proof that we need more money for the DEA/to seal the borders/elect Arpaio emperor.

    It’s so fucking stupid. The war on drugs ought to be obviously worthless, and yet no politician has the balls to admit it, because it would be an admission that the government can’t do some things.

  6. So why not demand that they ask a doctor for permission as well?

    Because doctors have nothing better to do with their time than to say “Yep, J sub, you’re still allergic to ragweed. Here’s your prescription for Sudafed. Don’t worry, we’ll bill the insurance company the $150”.

    1. Either way, we get paid!

    2. This. Way to “fix” “The Drug Problem” and “The Health Care Problem”, Barry.

      Two birds with one stone, yeah baby. So what if the stone is radioactive and it actually just mutates the pair of Sparrows into a two-headed Raptor? Raptors are cool!

  7. Yeah you right, rac. Springtime makes me a runny, sneezy mess and the degrading, procedural hurdles to relief via OTC meds are a bitter pill to swallow indeed. Wasn’t this law the brainchild of that poison toad from Indiana’s 3rd district, Mark Souder?

  8. Stupid is as stupid does

  9. The irony? You can order ephedrine from any number of places overseas, in a more pure form.

    1. I once saw a website for this one Chinese herbal store based in the US. They had a space for “ma huang”, which had a hastily posted “NOT FOR SALE” splashed across it.

      I also remember back in the 1990’s, being able to buy ephedrine tablets in truck stops.

    2. It’s a weight loss tool as well. It’s not hard to get ephedrine at all. It’s rather easy.

      1. It’s hard to get it straight up.

        1. I guess that depends on your definition of hard. It’s readily available from numerous sources both domestic and foreign. Hell its as easy to get as pot.

    3. You can get it here too, just mixed with guaifenesin, which is a pretty harmless substance.

      Stuffy nose people have you ever tried to switch from Actifed to Primatene?

      1. Is it really that harmless? It’s not meant to be taken long term and in the dosages one would take ephedrine for weight loss. It’s why I’ve stayed away from it.

        Which sucks because ephedrine kicks ass. I’ve had to resort to green tea extract based thermogenics.

        1. I noticed an interesting, anecdotal, shift from ephedrine to adderall among people I know in college. The people that started when ephedrine was legal switched to adderall after it was made illegal and they were working through PhDs or stressful jobs by just getting a prescription.

  10. …that last part of the sentence is worth repeating, because it illustrates the futility of supply-side efforts to discourage drug use…

    As opposed to the astounding success of demand-side efforts to discourage drug use?

    sarc/

  11. People with colds can die for all I care. As long as our kids are drug free why ask questions? Dumb libertarian dopers…

    1. Look Juanita, just because Barney left you for Thelma Lou doesn’t mean you have to take it out on the rest of us.

    2. Actually, a (very) few people DO die from the common cold:

      http://www.nationmaster.com/gr…..ommon-cold

      I couldn’t find any indication of deaths from anaphlactic reaction to pollen and airborne allergies, however.

    3. You’re putting us on! Or else you’re a drug warrior…

  12. The kneejerk state measures about meth labs are encroaching on more and more aspects of normal peoples’ lives. The fact that glassware is regulated in 13 states now is beyond ridiculous, especially given that many of these syntheses are being done in 2-liter soda bottles.

    Having to show ID to buy a decongestant is silly. Too bad there’s no good way to quantify the number of people whose medical care (which is apparently the most important issue in the world according to half of Congress) is adversely impacted by this foolishness.

    The Europeans do some things better than we do. Their pharmacists have intelligent conversations with clients and sell all manner of pharmaceuticals to people without prescriptions every day. Even those not available OTC here in the U.S.

  13. “So why not demand that they ask a doctor for permission as well? Surely that will foil those Mexican drug cartels.”

    Please don’t give the drug warriors any ideas.

  14. It’s guaifenesin that is relatively harmless.

    1. …and it is an aphrodisiac as well. It waters down and gets bodily secretions flowing.

  15. This law has driven me crazy to no end. I regularly take Claritin-D, the only allergy medicine that actually works for my heavy allergies. Problem is that I work long hours, and it’s often hard for me to leave work in time to stop by a pharmacy before it closes (or long enough to wait in the massive lines at the pharmacy during lunch hours). The other complication is that I often stay at my girlfriends’ apartment, and there is no convenient way conceivable for me to leave enough of the allergy meds at both my place and hers without going over the daily limit. When I can’t get my pseudophedrine, my life pretty much comes to a standstill, and this law affects me on an almost weekly basis. Honest, law-abiding people are being punished because of this ridiculous law.

  16. But my libertarian friends, where is the MARKET in all of this? I’m no ontripanure, but don’t you think there would be decongestants sold out of the tap at bars by now if this were such a big problem? Somebody could make a lot of money, and it would be impossible to use the Sudafed from the tap to make meth.

    1. You obvious haven’t been in a Canadian pharmacy located near the US border have you?

      Canadian “Sudafed dealers” ARE making a lot of money out of this.

    2. My retarded friend, you can’t expect any kind of market action outside the laws of our overlords.

      1. I love the overlords. Follow them blindly!

    3. That’s rational, and laws are usually irrational, made by stupid fuckers for stupid fuckers.

  17. Sort of topical… another buried side effect of ObamaCare is they will start demanding a doctor’s note before one of those flex medical accounts can be used to purchase… Advil. W. T. F. Glad I dumped that stupid waste of time.

  18. The really amusing thing is, that the legislatures and law enforcement types say pseudo-ephedine has been replaced by better stuff. But all that better stuff actually have forms with it added. Because without it, they are basically worthless as allergy/cold medicines.

    1. Anyway, I don’t mind showing an ID. But where I live (Missouri) more and more places are simply banning the stuff. The local governments. I now have to drive 30 miles to buy it.

  19. In most cases the pharmaceutical companies let out new medicines for an allergy, but actually the name new only, and components same. They simply suck from us money

  20. In most cases the pharmaceutical companies let out new medicines for an allergy, but actually the name new only, and components same. They simply suck from us money

  21. In most cases the pharmaceutical companies let out new medicines for an allergy, but actually the name new only, and components same. They simply suck from us money

  22. In most cases the pharmaceutical companies let out new medicines for an allergy, but actually the name new only, and components same. They simply suck from us money

  23. Most people should have no problem with showing ID especially if you have nothing to hide.

  24. Having to show ID for buying a decongestant is a little too much trouble I’m afraid. What next? Full body scans for all intrastate U.S flights – oh I forgot…

  25. Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up!

  26. well that’s really unexpected.

  27. Now this one is what I’ve been looking for. Would be giving you credits on the way how you deliver this great insight. Such an interesting story.

  28. lol, what is with all these weird comments. Come on now, people…

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