Illinois Mulls Requiring Prescriptions for Cold Medicine. Thanks Meth and the War on Drugs!


Be sure to sneeze on any cops you see.
Credit: comedy_nose / Foter / CC BY

As if it's not hard enough to get an appointment to see a doctor already these days, Illinois lawmakers are considering requiring prescriptions to purchase cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, because of meth.

Bryant Jackson-Green of the Illinois Policy Institute notes how oppressive the government already is to citizens looking to buy common medications in its relentless war to stop people from getting high:

In fact, laws already on the books for these substances already impose burdens on businesses and consumers. The federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (passed along with the Patriot Act) mandates that medicines with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine be sold only to customers 18 and older and be kept behind the counter, and that pharmacies take down the name and address of everyone who buys them. Anyone who buys more than an arbitrary amount now—3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine base per day and 9 grams per month—has committed a federal crime.

The experiences of ordinary people trying to take care of their families show how these laws are an example of drastic government overreach. In 2006, for example, an Illinois man was arrested and charged with a federal misdemeanor for buying his son "too much" Claritin-D before he went to summer camp. Authorities don't even have to show criminal intent, but merely that someone bought a certain amount of allergy medication, to charge a person with a crime.

Two states, Oregon and Mississippi, have already taken the route of demanding prescriptions for these cold medicines. Despite adding costs and misery to the lives of average, non-meth-using Americans, there's little sign that the additional barriers to access will amount to much. The Cascade Policy Institute, an Oregon-based think tank that promotes free markets and individual liberty, looked at the impact of Oregon's law and was unimpressed:

Our study looked at meth trends in Oregon from 2004 to 2010 and compared what was happening here to similar states and the country as a whole. We found that while the number of meth lab related incidents in 2010 is down 97 percent from 2004, that doesn't speak to the success of the prescription requirement.

Why not? Because six nearby states that don't have a prescription requirement, including Washington State and California, experienced similar declines in meth lab incidents. In addition, almost all of Oregon's 97 percent drop occurred between 2004 and 2006, before the prescription law even took effect.

The decline in illegal meth manufacturing also has not corresponded to a decline in meth use or availability in Oregon. The sad fact is that the reduction of one source of methamphetamine only leads to the increased availability of the drug from other sources, including Mexican super labs.

Furthermore, a new study by Jane Carlisle Maxwell of the University of Texas at Austin and Mary-Lynn Brecht of the University of California at Los Angeles found that Mexican meth manufacturers (in a country that imposed a ban on pseudoephedrine in 2008) are increasingly using alternative methods to make the drug, including the P2P method, which doesn't rely on PSE.

This analysis was written in 2012, and yet at least one police chief in Illinois still thinks pseudoephedrine is required to produce methamphetamines.

While Illinois is considering these harsher methods, Reason's Jacob Sullum recently wrote about neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart's report arguing the dangers and addictive potential of meth have been exaggerated.

NEXT: How Racist Is Your State's War on Weed? Compare!

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  1. The Washington State Board of Pharmacy has adopted new rules that will replace written logbooks of sales of pseudoephedrine, a decongestant that can be used to make methamphetamine. One popular brand of the drug is Sudafed.

    Federal law limits sales of the drug to less than 3.6 grams per day and nine grams within 30 days. Washington began placing medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter in 2006, and requiring buyers to fill out a paper form.


    “The NPLEx system will reduce the paperwork burden for pharmacists, provide real-time information to law enforcement in the course of a criminal investigation and continue to limit access to the ingredients necessary to produce meth,” McKenna said.

    And we get surprised when people start losing their constitutional rights because they acquired a government ration-card for marijuana?

    1. Technically they lose their rights when the start using any federally controlled substance. The card just makes it easier to enforce.

  2. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. This is the price that must be paid in order to mold society into our image.

    /statist derp

    1. If it saves just ONE PERSON, it will be worth it… but not really.

  3. at least one police chief in Illinois still thinks pseudoephedrine is required to produce methamphetamines

    I hear you can do it with a drum of Methylamine…

    1. But if you “acquire” one, it makes sense to roll it, not carry it.

      I wonder how many watch lists that comment just put me on?

      1. Thank god, I was wondering if anyone would get that reference…

        1. How many people *wouldn’t* get that reference? BB hasn’t been off the air that long.

  4. You see, this is a double-bonus for the puritanical sadists who push the drug war. Pseudoephedrine not only might be used for making the demon meth–which people enjoy–but it also relieves the sinus suffering of countless people with nasal infections and colds.

    What do the drug warrior sadists hate almost as much as people enjoying themselves? People who don’t endure their suffering like they’re supposed to. Well, now they can.

    1. Ad campaign idea: compare sinus sufferers and chronic pain sufferers to women whose doctors thought it just weren’t right to give them ether for childbirth.

      1. Wouldn’t work very well. The reason the puritanical sadists get away with such horrible shit is that most people are 1) mild sociopaths who don’t empathize well with others’ suffering, and 2) are very mild versions of puritanical sadists themselves. Suffering is good for the soul, amirite? As long as it’s not your personal suffering.

        1. No, I think you have it the wrong way. There’s a small number of sadists who are truly driving the wars on drugs. Most people just go along with it because they think the medical-legal authorities know best in what they perceive to be a highly technical one. If most of those people realized the policy boiled down to malevolence rather than benevolence, they wouldn’t go along with it.

          However, look at these prescription requirements in perspective: They just return to the status quo before ~40 yrs. ago when Sudafed made the prescription-OTC switch.

  5. Land of the Free.

  6. In ___, a black person is ___ times more likely to be arrested ask for a prescription than a white person for having marijuana cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine.

  7. WTF? Guess I’ll have to smoke dope instead.

  8. Hurrah – more Illinois derpicity for all to laugh at…. I am so proud of this here state.

  9. One would think the FDA’s OTC approval would be enough to prevent states from making their own “more important than the FDA” prescription drug rulings. Commerce clause ‘n’ shit.

    I wonder if states giving the finger to the Feds regarding pot has emboldened states to ignore the Fed on lots of other drug-related issues such as this. The sad thing of course is the copycat mindset and the “let’s be the pioneer” mindset of legislators when it comes to shitting all over personal liberty.

  10. …increasingly using alternative methods to make the drug, including the P2P method, which doesn’t rely on PSE.

    Didn’t these idiots watch any Breaking Bad, fer Chrissakes?

    1. My wife has a family member who’s a agent in the MS Narcotics Beareau. Even he thinks the prescription requirement is a bunch of crap. According to him, the prescription requirement did two things. The first was increase thefts of precursor chemical sudafed substitutes for the other dozen ways to make the stuff. The second was to increase the amount of meth being run across the Mexican border.

  11. Don’t fucking blame meth for this. This stupidity is purely on the war on drugs.

  12. I think all the pseudoephedrine regulations are crap, but I’d actually prefer that they’d kept it on a prescription basis rather than this ridiculous over-the-counter-but-we’re-watching-you status they’ve applied. I actually find I have to keep a spreadsheet to make sure I don’t exceed the limit. At least if it were still on a prescription basis I could just read the label and buy when it says I can, and not have to be concerned about having my door broken down if I make an accounting error.

  13. This has basically been done on a local level where I live in Missouri. Pretty much every town has passed a law.

    And yet, it’s really the only thing that works for allergies and such. If you watch all the commercials on TV, most of them are for so and such D, which is simply their drug plus pseudoephedrine added, because the other drug just doesn’t work very well on its own.

  14. I’ve taken pseudoephedrine for 30 years, and the past 5 years or so have been subject to sinus infections and whatnot because I need to schedule special trips to the drugstore and show ID and feel like a common criminal. I’d almost welcome the Rx solution because my doctor will give me one and then I can get a whole 90 days at a time. Stupid to have to plan one’s life around buying meds that used to be available by mail.

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