The great toll that drug use and abuse takes on the public and communities at large is formidable, devastating enough to cause lawmakers, medical professionals, private business interests and private citizens to come together to determine how to get the problem in check.
Unfortunately, one expert says that one of the biggest intervention methods focused on stopping crystal meth abuse and addiction is not working.
When it comes to crystal meth abuse and use, one measure put into place to stem the tide of devastation was a database designed to track the sales of pseudoephedrine, an active ingredient in the drug. Readily available in a number of over-the-counter medications, police were concerned that drug makers were buying pseudoephedrine en masse in order to cook the drug and distribute it. In response, they pulled the medications from the shelves and limited the number that each person could buy. Then they installed a database to further track sales in order to identify areas or stores where large amounts were being purchased; the goal was to hone in on locations where it was likely that the drugs were being produced and stop it at the source.
The database is installed on a nationwide level. Pharmacies are required to report the sales to the database called NPLEx. Purchasers are limited to buying no more than three boxes of medications containing pseudoephedrine per month and 20 per year. Should someone attempt to buy more than that, the database would block them from purchasing the drug.
Keith Humphreys once worked as a drug policy adviser for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He believes that a more effective choice than the current electronic database would be to require that all purchasers of pseudoephedrine have a doctor’s prescription for the drug.
His reasoning? The differences that are in effect in different states. Currently, Kentucky employs use of the database to limit buyers of pseudoephedrine, and Oregon requires purchasers to have a prescription. The results have been starkly different: Kentucky’s meth lab seizures rose after the implementation of use of the database in 2008 from 429 in that year to 1,060 in 2012. Comparatively, the number of meth lab busts in Oregon dropped by 96 percent after requiring patrons to have a prescription before using the drug.
West Virginia recently implemented use of the database statewide. In 2013, they have thus far had 270 meth lab seizures. Those involved in the debate will be watching to see how it impacts use, distribution and sales of the drug in the coming years.
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