Drug Policy

How About Fighting Meth Use by Not Requiring a Prescription for Pseudoephedrine? It Works Just As Well.


Last week I noted that bills aimed at requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, a methamphetamine precursor, had been blocked or withdrawn in two states. A recent study by Oregon's Cascade Policy Institute suggests why legislators may be leery of this policy as a way of reducing meth production and use: It doesn't work.

In 2004 Oregon became the first state to put cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine behind the pharmacy counter, and the following year it became the first state to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug. So far only one other state, Mississippi, has followed suit. The authors of the Cascade study, Chris Stomberg and Arun Sharma, report that "the number of methamphetamine lab incidents in Oregon declined significantly from 467 in 2004 to 12 in 2010—a decline of more than 90%." But most of this drop occurred before the prescription requirement took effect in 2006, and nearby states without such laws saw similar changes. Washington, for example, also saw a 90 percent decrease in lab incidents (which includes discoveries of labs, dumpsites, chemicals, and equipment) during this period. Looking at incidents per 1 million residents, Stomberg and Sharma find similar rates in Oregon, Washington, and California as of 2010.

Likewise, "the number of methamphetamine admissions to substance abuse centers in Oregon declined about 23% between 2006 and 2009," but a similar trend was apparent in other states as well. Stomberg and Sharma note that "the decline in methamphetamine treatment episodes across the United States between 2006 and 2009 was also about 23%." And while the sources of methamphetamine have shifted (toward Mexico in particular), "both state and federal law enforcement personnel report that methamphetamine continues to be widely available in Oregon." Hence the Journal of Apocryphal Chemistry article on how to synthesize pseudoephedrine out of "readily available N-methylamphetamine."

Stromberg and Sharma, whose study was supported by funding from Consumer Healthcare Products Association, note research suggesting that the costs imposed by the prescription requirement "could add up to be a significant sum" when "spread out over a large number of legitimate uses of pseudoephedrine." The requirement makes pseudoephedrine more expensive, especially when you consider the cost of a doctor's visit. But the main cost is the inconvenience and unnecessary discomfort caused by forcing cold and allergy sufferers to see an M.D. for a cheap,, safe, and effective decongestant they used to buy over the counter. Even if drug warriors attach little value to this burden, it has to exceed the policy's imperceptible benefits.

The whole study is here (PDF)

[Thanks to Michael Holman for the tip.]

NEXT: Delphi Retirees Are Among the Human Victims of the Auto Bailout

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  1. How About Fighting Meth Use by NOT Requiring a Prescription for Pseudoephedrine? It Works Just As Well.

    Well where's the fun in that?

    1. Mortimer Mango: Well I used to be an addict. I mean it was terrible. Do you see this? (shows missing fingers) I was building a birdhouse on drugs and I lost two fingers. I feverishly wanted to finish it and I wasn't making sound decisions.

      Frylock: Remember my roommate, the cup you met earlier? He's filled with crystal meth.

      Mortimer Mango: Oh, cool. Thanks.

      1. Oh Epi, will your pop-culture references never fail to entertain?

      2. "I used to be all messed up on drugs. Now, I'm all messed up on the Lord."

    2. You're just a shill for Big Mucus.

  2. You know what they should do, they should make meth illegal.

    1. Make it legal and put it behind the counter with the decongestant and no one could ever get any meth either.

      1. way to make the cost of meth skyrocket, jerk.

  3. Even if drug warriors attach little value to this burden, it has to exceed the policy's imperceptible benefits.

    They don't fucking care. They don't care about anything except stomping a human face forever. For its own good, of course.

    1. And for the children. Even if the face they are stomping is a child, they are doing so for all the children.

      1. Not just for the children (as the "A Team" Ahole would claim) but for the Canines and harmless pets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xoK2qX92xk Notice how quick the A Team captain is to claim that the dog will need 'neutralized' and how happy he is saying it. Then ff to the ending

    2. Another drug law means greater income for drug lawyers and more convicts for the prison industry.

  4. Obviously the solution is to ban both pseudoephedrine and Vicks VapoRub.

    1. And don't forget those Vick's inhalers. We can't have any of them ecstasy heads copping a cool breeze.

    2. VapoRub....gateway rub....to Asian pleasure garden of extasy handjobs.

    3. Root causes. If hay fever is the enemy we need to get those narco-warrior crop dusters back from south america and start hosing down the suburbs with agent orange. Our childrens health can't have a pricetag.

  5. The solution to meth is probably finding something better to do. And The Reason Hit & Run Superpimp March Madness Pick-Em is as good as anything else out there.

    Better, in fact because it's free. It's anonymous. And it's fucking fun.

    Fill out your brackets, people. I don't want to have to track you down and beat you senseless.* The password is: reason

    *I will not be tracking anybody down and beating them senseless because I ascribe to the NAP...and I'm not really that tough.


      1. You're Schmoopy!

        1. Leave the love birds alone; it's sweet that they found each other

          1. ask not for whom my butt bleeds,
            it bleeds for thee

            1. stop fisting yourself or join the Navy and have an expert do it for you

              1. i'm a pacifist. i like to pass the fist

                1. pacifist? No you misheard the psychiatrist: you're passive-aggressive

                  1. Fistin bitchez

    2. Fear my bracket-fu!

      1. Which projected #1 will be the first to fall:

        1. KU. 3rd Round.

          1. Prediction:
            Some kids in squeaky shoes will win.
            And red dries quicker than other paint colors.

            1. I like college ball because the kids have heart.
              Think, this could be the last game they play, ever. the next time most of these kids will play basketball is at the Y.

        2. But those seeds are Too Big to Fall!

        3. UNC. 2nd or 3rd.

    1. Curious how that will play out. I can see why McDonnell would have reservations about it's language.

      I hope he signs it, though. Or they get the verbiage correct. I can't see how they can make it only apply to Virginian members of the military. With that corrected, though, I think it will pass muster.

      1. Ideally, it would have explicitly and militantly demanded that any agent of the federal government of the United States, or any other executor of its will and laws, attempting to violate constitutional protections (ie, 4th Amendment) be arrested and charged with insurrection, or something else serious.

        But this is a very good step.

    2. A law that makes it illegal to detain anyone unlawfully. Does anyone else see a problem here?

      1. Obviously. The law does nothing to provide free birth control or to Stop Kony.

  6. Should Gingrich drop out?

    1. Yes, especially if Santorum drops out with him.

      1. That would be more interesting than watching the santorum drop out of him

      2. Yes, especially if Santorum all the other candidates except for Ron Paul drops out with him.


    2. Yes, but first he needs to tune in and turn on.

  7. You know what I don't get? Why do good people and decent state legislatures even obey shitty laws like the NDAA's detention provisions, or Obamacare? Why?

    The Constitution is supreme law, so if it can be ignored and such shitty laws can be passed, why can't they also be ignored? Conundrum.

    1. Honestly, I think it's because they're too shit-scared to do it. They're afraid they'll be forced to comply, and when the law ends up with positive results, they'll look stupid. And as long as they bitch about the law without changing it, they can point to it and blame it for all kinds of other shit on it.

      All politicians love to play the contrarian. It means never having to say you're sorry.

      1. What if, for example, with overwhelming public support, the State of Texas directly told the feds to fuck off on one of the aforementioned sacks of legislative shit. Just a downright no. Would the feds really dare do something against a whole state?

        1. Wouldn't it amount to secession? You don't think the feds would do anything about that?

          1. 1. cut federal funding
            2. highways/interstates and naval blockade
            3. disconnect internet backbones, arrange for satellite blackout

            And if all that wasn't enough to end the state's shenanigans, then you send in the drones and the jackboots and start-a-stompin ass.

            Even Texas can't win that fight.

            1. I wouldn't be so sure about that. For one thing the average Texan is probably a better shot than the average government stooge.

              1. If any state in the union could effectively tell the feds to "get fucked or be fucked", it would be Texas. I don't think any other state is in a position to 1) independently produce all its energy needs or 2) negotiate economic and political treaties with other countries, much less 3) defend its own borders.
                And if Texas did it, CA would be right behind.

              2. as a firearms instructor who has taught both cops and noncops, i would agree.

                i have also seen that firearms ability seems inversely proportional to rank when it comes to cops

                i have seen a high ranking officer literally SKIP a bullet off the ground about three feet in front of them.

              3. as a firearms instructor who has taught both cops and noncops, i would agree.

                i have also seen that firearms ability seems inversely proportional to rank when it comes to cops

                i have seen a high ranking officer literally SKIP a bullet off the ground about three feet in front of them.

        2. "Would the feds really dare do something against a whole state?"

          No. The State of Texas has a pull-out clause, and the feds fear its use

          1. pull down my pants, my butt is bleeding

            1. and don't wear white
              -it's way too early

              1. lessons from experience.

                1. what part of female do you not get?

                  1. you need help.

                    1. and you need a new hobby
                      'rathernot' is a bit stalkerish

                    2. NO YOU ARE THE SHMOOPY

      2. and when the law ends up with positive results, they'll look stupid

        If only they understood just how unlikely that outcome is.

      3. our governor was certainly way too fucking pussy to stand up to the feds.

        i think dino rossi MIGHT HAVE but gregoire admitted she was and she caved.

        her fealty is to the people of the state, not the fucking feds.

        or at least it should be

    2. Why do good people and decent state legislatures

      There are no "decent state legislatures" and if by "good people" you're talking about politicians, well, there aren't any of those either.

      Your question answers itself.

      1. "There are no 'decent legislatures' of any kind"

        FIFY'd. On the house.

      2. "every once in a while an innocent man is sent to the legislature" (paraphrasing PJ ORourke quoting somebody i can't recall)

  8. FWIW, you probably don't want to be ingesting something that is one step away from chromium (0) and HMPA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexamethylphosphoramide)

    1. i'm scared enough of dihydrogen monoxide. shit kills thousands a year

    2. This is not an easy synthesis, and the yield would be low. Access to Cr(CO)6 is certainly more difficult than to meth as well.

      And, yes Cr(0) compounds are very bad for you. Brain cancer etc.
      In common with many of the other homoleptic metal carbonyls (e.g. nickel carbonyl and iron carbonyl), chromium hexacarbonyl is toxic and thought to be carcinogenic. Its vapor pressure is relatively high for a metal complex, 1 mm Hg ( 36 ?C) wiki

  9. If you get the flu, just drive to the office of the nearest legislator who voted for the ban, and cough on him.

    1. biological warfare! get DHS on the phone, STAT!

  10. One aspect (aside from the entire premise) I always thought was stupid about the drug war is the fact that they measure "success" by how expensive the drug is. But more expensive = more incentive to produce, and if their own rhetoric about addiction is true, it won't lead to lower demand. Better to force the prices through the floor if you want to destroy dealers/think the government has any place here to begin with.

    1. Higher prices hypothetically imply lower supply, as they assume demand is constant.

      1. Sure, but it's incentive to enter the market.

  11. The KONY team is on CNN
    Jason Russell is setting off the gaydar
    Ben Keesey sounds like the teacher on Beavis&Butthead;

  12. There's a big ole Twitter war going on over the imaginary "War on Women". So far my mom, wife and daughters have been attacked by the supposed "defenders" of women.

    Good thing I didn't mention my sister!

    Come join us - it's fun as flingin' monkey poo!

    1. "So far my mom, wife and daughters have been attacked by the supposed "defenders" of women"

      I'm sure the cult of Almanian is all the protection they will ever need

      1. my butt bleeds

  13. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  14. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  15. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  16. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  17. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  18. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  19. This is what you think it is.

  20. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  21. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  22. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  23. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  24. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  25. Fuck me with a plastic spork.

  26. I antagonized rectal, then the spamming begins.

    1. Holy googling sick bastard,
      I'm stealing that one for my blog

      1. You keep me off your blog

          1. Take 2 shots of Clorox, every 4 hours as necessary.

            1. I have a feeling I can guess your med school

    2. "I antagonized rectal, then the spamming begins..."

      because you just might be the spammer; notice how I don't accuse you without evidence but you don't understand that principle.

      Please shoot yourself if you ever get jury duty

      1. You're very defensive.

        1. A lot of innocent defendants in a capital punishment cases have that attitude too
          -seriously, don't ever answer a call to jury duty

          1. are you still here?

            1. No, I'm not; go to bed

              1. Don't forget to eat yer babiez before you go to bed.

  27. It is a measure of how much we have lost that no one seems to remember that pseudoephedrine was a weak replacement for ephedrine. Some chemistry geek should figure out how to cook meth into ephedrine instead of pseudoephedrine (as was done recently).

    1. ephedrine is readily available over the counter in products such as primatene tablets and bronkaid.

      i use bronkaid frequently during dieting phases and stack it with caffeine.

      pseudo is NOT a weak replacement for ephedrine. pseudo is used primarily for cold meds and ephedrine is used primarily as a bronchodilator

      1. Thanks for the reply.. From what I had remembered, Sudafed used to be non-drowsy and very effective. Then, after sometime (I didn't need to take it that often), it wasn't anymore. Someone told me that it was because of that switch.

        1. Just to be clear, I am not talking about any changes within the last 10 years.. I don't know when it was, but either late 80's or early-mid 90's.

  28. oregon is a weird liberal nanny hipster state (don't get me started on portlandia)

    you can't even pump your own gas.

    otoh, full nudity is apparently legal, so that 's cool

    the speed limit signs are HUGE for some reason.

    it's also spracker (meth-head) central in certain areas.

    it still amazes me that in WA you can walk up to a pharmacy counter and get dilaudid and they won't even ask for ID, as long as you have a script.

    if you want bronkaid (i use the ephedrine as a training/diet aid sometimes. it's WADA and USOC legal as long as you don't use it near competition), you have to sign a ledger, show your driver's license, the whole nine yards

    1. Shut the fuck up, nobody gives a shit about the opinion of murdering scumbags.

      1. meth is so simple to make, and the yield is great from available precursors, it is entirely different from a drug like cocaine

        it is at least theoretically possible to limit the cocaine supply in the US since coca leaves aren't grown here, etc. and they could THEORETICALLY do it, but in practicality it's never been done

        coke was about $100 a gram 25 yrs ago at my university, and it's CHEAPER now by far (inflation adjusted especially)

        meth otoh is SO easy to make, any dipshit with a TINY amount of knowledge can make it in a matter of hours and needs very little equipment

        we deal with what we refer to as beavis and butthead labs all the time. these aren't sophisticated chemists (like u need to make MDMA etc.) a bathtub, some buckets, some conventional utility hoses, etc. is all they need

        only by decreasing demand will meth production be curtailed. it's just WAY too easy to make

      2. the above statements are generally statements of fact, not opinion.


        oh, and smooches! 🙂

    2. Portlandia is a documentary.

      1. you aint kidding. i would so fucking love to get a cameo part on that show.

  29. Wait, wait... you people are talking about NOT passing new laws??


    But... but... what would we DOOOO all day???

    1. Blasphemy!

  30. Yeah dude that really does make a lot of sense man, I mean like wow.


  31. Just curious.
    Are commenters here typical of Reason readers and libertarians or did elementary school just let out. I really expected a higher class of people.

    1. Typical only of commenters on the Hit & Run blog. The snark and cynicism runs strong here. Childish? Sometimes. Entertaining? Always.

      Unfortunately, there are a number of relentless trolls on this site. The only way to survive is to pay the troll toll. Also, H&R commenters love pop culture references.

      You gotta pay the troll toll if you want to get into that boy's soul.
      You gotta pay the troll toll to get in.
      You want the baby boy's soul
      You gotta pay the troll toll.
      You gotta pay the troll toll to get in.
      Troll toll!
      What'd you say?!
      Troll toll!
      Hey, hey, hey!
      Troll toll!

  32. I wonder if anyone has done a study on whether drug store break-ins and robberies have gone up since pseudoephedrine became unavailable on the shelves?

  33. Oh please. I think we all know by now that no matter what no politician will ever get rid of a drug law because that would be tantamount to admitting they were wrong about something.

  34. They dont care who it hurts as long as it has the calming effect of shutting up those bitchy,whiny activists who want to control every aspect,,,,,,,Oh Hell, you guys know all this sh__ already.

  35. Maybe legislation, or its debate, has a signaling effect. Maybe it's the publicity over the problem, including the publicity over the law -- whether it passes or not -- which creates the social conditions for improvement.

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