Drug Policy

Speed 5: This Time for Sure!

|

First the government encouraged illicit production of methamphetamine by restricting access to legal speed. Then it encouraged pseudoephedrine-based production by banning or restricting other precursors. Appalled by all the scary, toxic, flammable meth labs that subsequently popped up around the country, it restricted access to cold and allergy remedies containing pseudoephedrine, forcing customers to ask pharmacists for them, sign a registry, and abide by quantity limits. Those restrictions, in turn, encouraged a shift to the "shake and bake" method for producing meth, which is less complicated and does not require as much pseudoephedrine but is in some ways more dangerous and more environmentally destructive. The next logical step, according to Lincoln County, Oregon, District Attorney Rob Bovett, is to require a prescription for products containing pseudoephedrine, thereby banning all over-the-counter sales. This time for sure!

In a New York Times op-ed piece (noted this morning by Radley Balko), Bovett suggests that a prescription requirement would not have much impact on consumers, since it would affect "only 15 pharmaceutical products and their generic equivalents." If the number of products containing pseudoephedrine, an inexpensive and effective decongestant, is smaller than it used to be, that might have something to do with the fact that treating consumers like criminals while making them jump through new hoops to buy their favored remedies tends to put a damper on demand. Many companies reformulated their products in response to the new restrictions (which took effect nationally in 2006), replacing pseudoephedrine with phenylephrine, which seems to be about as effective as a placebo but can be purchased without seeking permission from a state-appointed gatekeeper. A prescription requirement, which would add the cost and inconvenience of a medical appointment to the barriers, would be fatal to this product category.

I do not accept Bovett's blithe assumption that any inconvenience and discomfort imposed upon cold and allergy sufferers is justified by the need to prevent people from getting high, since I do not think preventing people from getting high is a legitimate function of government. But even if it were, there is no reason to believe that requiring a prescription for cold and allergy remedies would accomplish that end (or, as the headline on his piece puts it, "Kill the Meth Monster"—an unusually candid acknowledgment that drug warriors mainly fight chimerical threats of their own invention). Bovett concedes but is completely undeterred by the fact that the vast majority of illicit meth consumed in this country is supplied not by mom-and-pop labs or mobile shake-and-bakers but by large criminal organizations based in Mexico, which do not buy their pseudoephedrine a couple of packs at a time from Rite Aid. And even if all the world's pseudoephedrine could be magically eliminated, other methods of production would be used instead. Time and time again, the black market in drugs has proven highly adaptable since the government created it nearly a century ago.

What Rob Bovett actually demands, then, is that people sacrifice cheap, safe, and effective medicine so he and like-minded authoritarians can look like they are fighting drug abuse. The proper response to this plea is a snot-filled sneeze of contempt.

Previous coverage of the pseudoephedrine crackdown here.

NEXT: Little Man with a Big Jailbait Fetish: Charlie Chaplin Edition

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. And we think marijuana legalization is “in the bag”. All your bodies are belong to us.

    1. They always have; that’s why there have always been laws against suicide.

  2. Oh come on people. You’re not going to die from a cold. Your body is well-equipped to take care of that kind of infection, as long as you don’t prevent it from fixing the infection.

    I don’t know why anyone would trust a drug beginning with “pseudo” anyway. Maybe if you’re a libertarian shill for Big Pharma who defends whatever substances they foist on the public, with no concern for what these artificial chemicals will do to our society.

    1. You used to be funnier because you were more whiny and bitter. This new “tone” isn’t as good.

    2. Are you a wizard?

    3. They only person who would agree with this is an authoritarian shill who wants to make a single mother of 3 suffer through a cold, and make her spend money she doesn’t have on seeing a doctor for a prescription for some stupid, harmless cold medicine.

      I can be hyperbolic too.

      1. You think it’s better to have those three kids deal with their mother’s meth addiction?

        There’s no utopia solution. We have to make tradeoffs.

        1. So the mother who uses it for a cold is now a meth addict? Sounds like a fair trade off to me…

          1. He definitely kicked your ass in the hyperbole contest.

            1. I guess this is one I’m OK with losing.

        2. Hobie,

          Those blue-collar tweakers are beloved in this town.

      2. Sure, you can be hyperbolic…but can you be hypergolic?

    4. Mrs. Hobie Hanson,

      I would strongly recommend natural and/or faith healing from now on.

      1. just one of those trade-offs you have to make (not me sucker)

    5. I know what you mean. I would much rather be sick than fill out a form.

      I just don’t understand why big pharma wouldn’t send their lobbyists to bribe legislators to kill this. After all they have to be losing billions in revenue and it only takes a couple hundred thosand in the committee chair’s freezer to kill the bill.

      Still, anyone who paid attention in chemistry class should be able to make their own non-fungable non-infriging chemicals which are pharmoligcally equivlent to claritin from basic materials.

      1. Is there a shake-and-bake method for that?

    6. Smith ran over to take a look for himself. Sure enough, readouts indicated an Irru class Tarmo fighter, carrying the markings of the Booklumghum Federation of Mo-Yu-Tyheng. The very same warship that was responsible for multiple harynings at the battle of Darnsforz. Only the Yeeefu’s anti-xos cannons could possibly stop them.

  3. What Rob Bovett actually demands, then, is that people sacrifice cheap, safe, and effective medicine their freedom so he and like-minded authoritarians can look like they are fighting drug abuse sin.

  4. The thing is, until proposing banning shit ceases to be an electoral winner for shithead politicians, this will continue to happen.

    And I don’t see “ban teh drugz for teh childrenz” being an electoral loser any time soon; it’s all part and parcel of the “tuff on crimez” posturing.

    1. I think Lolcats could be the answer. Next election season, we need a slew of ads with pictures of kittys, captioned with those slogans.

      “i R tougher on crimez, doggy!”

      *picture of cat swatting a McGruff doll*

      1. IM IN UR FARMACY WATCHIN UR SINUS MEDIKASHUNZ

        1. *picture of ceiling cat*

        2. I CAN HAZ EFFEDRUHNZ?

          1. IZ PLACEBOZ?

            1. KITTEH NEEDZ INHAYLER, KITTEH NEEDZ INHALER!!!!!1!

              *gasp gasp gasp*

    2. Maybe we should liken it to profiling. I mean, just because a few Muslims blew up some planes doesn’t mean we force all Muslims onto a registry. So just because a few pseudoephedrine users blow up trailer parks, why put all cold sufferers onto a registry?

      I think I just proved that Rob Bovett is a bigot and possibly a racist.

      1. Rob Bovett: a racist, or the racist?

        I CAN HAZ WHITE POWERZ?

      2. I also heard that he fucks sheep.

        1. Wait. I thought that “sheep fucker” was downgraded to “sheep herder” in order to placate some dumbass lawyer.

          1. You must be talking about sheep hoarders, instead of sheep herders…

            1. mice, I only fuck mice.

          2. Dumbfuck lawyers herd sheep. Dumbfuck district attorneys, being public figures, fuck sheep.

    3. Unfortunately the case is too complicated for voters to factor in. Hell, Jacob even leaves off my favorite irony of the whole mess – which is the creation of the Mexican drug gangs that eventually resulted in the border drug war.

      That process began when the DEA and FDA got the drug manufacturers to quit selling pseudoephedrine in bottles of 100 pills and moving entirely to individual shrink wrap packaging. I remember reading stories at the time about drug labs hiring people to buy packages at Wal-Mart and open them one by one. The stories mentioned that much production had begun moving to Mexico where drug labs were buying their pseudoephedrine in 55 gallon drums from China. This resulted in a huge price drop for meth. Nice job DEA!

      That’s too complicated for a blog post, let alone for a politician in the heat of the campaign. But it is undeniably true that the actions of our venerated drug warriors have succeeded only in pissing off people who use and sell Sudafed and creating powerful drug cartels who have killed the better part of 50,000 people in northern Mexico. Nice job, morons.

  5. Many companies reformulated their products in response to the new restrictions (which took effect nationally in 2006), replacing pseudoephedrine with phenylephrine, which seems to be about as effective as a placebo[…]

    Actually, less effective. It’s practically useless.

    1. you misread the sentence: about as effective as a placebo

      So shush OM, and believe it works. REALLY believe. And Hope.

      1. Bo knows placebo.

      2. my placebos work great

    2. Gee, I thought that I was the only one inadvertently discovered the total uselessness of the pseudophed “PE” while coming down with a cold in the middle of the night. Good job congress-schmuks!

      1. phenylephrine is not orally absorbed as far as I recall from pharm days.

    3. My pharmacist said that if Phenylephrine worked, they’d have used it before Pseudoephedrine was such a PITA to buy.

  6. And we think marijuana legalization is “in the bag”.

    It’ll happen. But 4,362,593 everyday things-that-go-in-your-mouth will be banned in its place. Everything but…whatever makes vegetarians so fat. (Seriously, why are they so fucking fat?)

    1. whatever makes vegetarians so fat

      Well, when you have to SOAK everything in olive oil to make it palatable because there’s no delicious animal parts involved…

    2. Everything but…whatever makes vegetarians so fat. (Seriously, why are they so fucking fat?)

      Ain’t no meat in donuts.

      1. Grains and starchy vegetables. Grains have tons of calories, but are digested faster and have a much, much higher glycemic index than meat proteins. Wheat, corn, potatoes, and rice are the highway to fatness.

        If a vegetarian stuck to only fruits & non-starchy vegetables, they’d be skinny as hell.

  7. This is a well-written response to Bovett: it makes a lot of persuasive points concisely. Remove the NYT and Balkso references, and omit “snot-filled” in the final sentence and a major newspaper might publish it. Just sayin’…

    1. *Balko

      Sorry, Radley.

    2. I think Sullum writes for Creators Syndicate.

  8. I’ve found the current “sign for your ration, and keep track your own total monthly allotment” setup for Pseudoephedrine products to be far more annoying than getting them with a prescription (in quantities up to twice the current monthly limit) used to be. I wouldn’t mind going back to a prescription basis, though my concern would be that they’d cut the prescription quantity back too.

    Of course, dropping all the crap and letting me buy a multi-month stockpile at one time would be the best option, but there are plenty of other small-government causes I’m willing to give priority.

    1. I wouldn’t mind going back to a prescription basis, though my concern would be that they’d cut the prescription quantity back too.

      Can anyone say pain meds?

  9. Bovett can fuck off and die. As someone where no other med works I have to get the “D” version of any allergy med. Because of this I have to find a pharmacy, if late at night, a 24 hour one. And because of the limits it’s not like I can stock up just in case. A few times the system that tracks the amounts has not updated fast enough so I couldn’t buy any. Had to send in friends to get it. Now he wants me to pay a doctor to write me a scrip for a med I already know works and is safe? Please sir, go get fucked in hell.

    And I just know assholes like Bovett would be the first to flip out if the government “caused an inconvience” on something they needed.

  10. Require a prescription!

    That’s the ticket.

    Because abuse of pharmaceuticals like Oxy Cotin and Ritalin never happens!

    Well… At least not since college.

  11. Blovett makes me think of bloviate. Apropos, methinks.

  12. If they ban pseudoephedrine cold medicine, will Mexican drug cartels start selling that too?

    If I knew a dealer who sold cold medicine, I might buy it from them anyway to avoid getting anal probed buying from a pharmacy.

  13. No sweat. I’ll just find some other shit to mix up in my bathtub. The hard part is figuring out how to smoke it out of these compact fluorescent light bulbs now that the incandescents are on their way to ban city.

    1. Just set the contents of the bathtub on fire and close the bathroom door.

      Oh, almost forgot, put a towel down at the bottom of the door to prevent leakage.

      1. Great, now I just have to find some chemical cheap enough to burn by the bathtub-full. I’m sure this will turn out well.

  14. Question: how tough it is to create a home lab to synthesize pseudoephedrine? What are the precursors for its production, and how long until THOSE are banned as well? Seriously, when does this clueless cycle of nonsense end?

    1. When every last drug user finally gets the message that we know best!

  15. Just steal a barrel-full of methylamine and you won’t need the pseydoephedrine. Alternately, you could ask the head of a chicken chain for a lab and reagents.

  16. How about we compromise – you need a prescription to get on an airplane, and a government official must touch your genitals to get the cold pills.

  17. I do not think preventing people from getting high is a legitimate function of government.

    You must be high!

    1. As you wish …

  18. Great! So now I’m going to have to spend money on a doctor’s visit to get a prescription, everytime I get the common cold.

  19. Bovett suggests that a prescription requirement would not have much impact on consumers

    Bullshit. Fuck Bovett.

    I havent been to the doctor (exception: eye) in 16 years (IIRC). I rarely take even OTC products, but about once a year or two I buy sudafed (It was a lifesaver two weeks ago, as I was ill AND unable to skip work that week). So fuck you Rob Bovett. There is no way I could have got into the doctor in time to get a prescription.

    1. 16 years? Not even for a 5-year physical? That’s not good. Let me guess, you’re afraid of the rectal exam. Trust me, it only hurts the first time.

  20. Bovett concedes but is completely undeterred by the fact that the vast majority of illicit meth consumed in this country is supplied not by mom-and-pop labs or mobile shake-and-bakers but by large criminal organizations based in Mexico, which do not buy their pseudoephedrine a couple of packs at a time from Rite Aid.

    Seems like Mexico’s president Felipe Calderon asks “how high” when the gringo president tells him to jump. Mexico banned all decongestants that use pseudoephedrine from the market.

    Neo-cons hated previous president Vicente Fox because he would not budge on the idea to sink Mexico in an unwinnable war. Seems like they found their hombre in Felipe… for the detriment of my country.

    1. Have to keep the Merida Initiative money flowing.

  21. It might be time to start growing Mormon Tea. Before it’s illegal, that is. http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs…..on_tea.htm

  22. If a vegetarian stuck to only fruits & non-starchy vegetables, they’d be skinny as hell.

    Skeletal, even.

  23. Let me guess, you’re afraid of the rectal exam. Trust me, it only hurts the first time.

    I nearly always go with a female GP. Skinnier fingers.

  24. If you’re going to be anally penetrated, it really should be by another man as God intended. None of this crazy strap-on femdom stuff.

  25. “The next logical step, according to Lincoln County, Oregon, District Attorney Rob Bovett, is to require a prescription for products containing pseudoephedrine, thereby banning all over-the-counter sales. This time for sure!”

    Administration officials perplexed by continued increase in medical costs. When asked to consider that making people miss work, go to doctors (thereby taking up time used to treat real disease), get prescriptions, and constantly repeat during allergy season, Administration officials responded, “nah”

  26. This article makes it sound as though Oregon is currently considering legislation that would require a prescription in order to buy products containing methamphetamine precursors.

    Actually, Oregon passed and implemented that very law back in 2005, and it is widely regarded as having been very successful ? not in reducing meth use, which the law was not intended to do, but in almost eliminating local mom and pop methamphetamine labs.

    These labs were a huge problem in and of themselves, because the manufacturing process is dangerous, and because the residue from meth production is so toxic, that cleaning up the poisons left in homes where meth had been manufactured and in sites in the woods where the toxins were dumped was a big money and time drain on law enforcement, and also resulted in many children whose parents cooked meth being placed in foster care, because of concerns regarding the long-term impact of the toxins on children’s cognitive development.

    For his article, Sullum appears to have relied on a research paper which, though published in 2009, doesn’t mention the 2005 law at all: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm…..MC2883188/ . I would be willing to bet that within days of their article being published, someone let the authors know that their literature review had fallen short. I suppose it makes sense that it was published in an economics journal rather than one dealing with drug abuse or criminal justice, which might have had an editor or fact-checker with more knowledge of the topic.

    A contrasting view is given in this 2008 paper on the website of the National Criminal Justice Research Service, pages 19 ? 38, which considers the impact of the 2005 Oregon law in detail: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1…..223480.pdf

    Sample quote on page 28 of the report:

    “?meth labs just basically dropped off the face of our investigative years. I mean in 2003 we had 56 labs that we seized. In 2004 we had a 116 labs?. In 2005 we dropped down to 20 labs for the year, so a huge drop. In 2006 they had like 10, 11 labs. And then, of course, this year we haven’t had any at all.” “So we took it out of the picture. Meth labs in the area, the law did exactly what we said that we wanted it to do. We drove the legislature to the public and said ‘hey, our goal here is not to cut down on the amount methamphetamine here although we would love to do that, but our main goal was to get these hazardous chemicals and these hazardous labs that were going on in our neighborhoods?and that worked.
    ~ Law enforcement, Multnomah County

    I live in Oregon, and have friends who are strong public advocates for CJ and drug law reform, and they strongly and publicly opposed the 2005 law at the time it was being considered. Now they both say they were wrong. And as someone with horrible asthma and allergies, for whom colds seem to last forever, the access to meds issue has not been the slightest problem. I recommend Tylenol PM and Mucinex, both available over the counter here in the Emerald State.

  27. These drug manufacturers need to be held accountable for fueling the devastation of thousands and thousands of familes.

    These drugs are hardly ‘effective’ – they barely cut symptoms and there are lots of dietary and other alternative methods to treat congestion which are healthier and leave a person not feeling in a fog.

    Take responsibility for yourself and your allergies and don’t make people suffer the devastation wrought by methamphetamine.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.