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Wrong Prescription For Fighting Meth

12.23.15 – Chronicle-Tribune

The General Assembly is expected to take up legislation in 2016 that would require Hoosiers to obtain a prescription in order to obtain cold medicine that also contains ingredients under to produce methamphetamine.

Indiana has the dubious distinction of being the top state in yearly meth lab discoveries. Previous efforts to make it the third state requiring residents to get a doctor’s prescription for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine have failed. 

GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma says passing the law will be a top priority for him in the coming session.

As much as we agree the scourge of meth must be attacked, we don’t think that making it harder for most consumers to get pseudoephedrine is an answer that will mean much to the problem. As we have seen with opiate pain medication, the availability of prescriptions is a relatively minor obstacle for the addicted. If the pills aren’t readily available, the problem moves to  heroin rather than pills and then a health crisis involving HIV or hepatitis results from unclean needles on top of the drug addiction.

Meanwhile, people with chronic pain have fewer options because of the abuse of others.

If we do this with cold medicine now – requiring people to see a doctor or nurse before getting an effective decongestant – then we seem to be just giving up on policing for meth. Meanwhile, we will be clogging up an already overburdened health care system with people having to spend a lot more money to see a health care provider rather than just buying something off the shelf to get through the sniffles.

The Associated Press reports meth lab discoveries have dropped across much of the U.S. since a national peak in 2004. That trend has mostly skipped Indiana. State police report 1,242 meth lab “incidents” as of Oct. 31 of this year, only slightly below the 1,384 labs that federal officials reported for Indiana at the national peak.

This is a problem. Decreasing the quality of life for people who do not use or sell meth is not the answer.

None of the surrounding states require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, so going across the border to get the ingredient won’t be a big deal for those making meth. Having to decide whether to go to the emergency room to get a prescription to fight a cold and runny nose for a sick child on the weekend is a big deal for that family.

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