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Drug paranoia ranting
Bar Harbor
A recent post by herooftheage reminded me that I'd been meaning to vent about this.

Of late, it has gotten harder and harder for me to treat my allergies. My best over-the-counter medication (Dimetapp) was... removed from production, due to a stupid FDA scare (a rant for another day). What I rely on mostly these days is Sudafed.

A few years back, some enterprising recreational chemist discovered that you could convert large quantities of Sudafed into some sort of fun illegal drug. More scare-mongering followed.

First, the big pharmacies started restricting the amount you could buy at once. I used to go to the pharmacy rarely, and buy a 3-6 month supply. Not any more, now the most I can buy at once is 48 doses. Then they decided to remove it from their main shelves, and required you to go to the Pharmacist to get some. It still (technically) doesn't require a prescription, mind you, you just need to ask the workers in the pharamcist section to get it for you.

A few days back, I went to the local Walgreens to get some miscellaneous stuff, and figured I'd get some more Sudafed while I was there. These days, I need to get it much more often, after all. They wanted to see my driver's license. Not just *see* my license, but enter a bunch of data from it into their central computer, apparently to ensure that I wasn't buying "suspicious" amounts of my allergy meds. I might have objected, but the clerk was already well nto the data entry by the time I realized what he was doing, and I'm not as huge a privacy-wonk as some. But of course, for such a system to *work*, it has to call home to a centralized database -- and something went wrong with that process. It just stuck at "waiting for data" for over ten minutes. Eventually, I said to forget the Sudafed, and bought my other stuff. They had to actually reboot the cash register to get it out of its "waiting" state.

I decided to go down the street a few blocks to the Codman Square Pharmacy. kestrell and I used to shop there, years ago, and were very unhappy with their general level of competence. Filling prescriptions took inordinately long, assuming there wasn't some fatal glitch with the paperwork that stopped them from being filled at all. When the local Walgreens opened, we shifted custom to them immediately. But, mirabile visu, this small, non-chain pharmacy still has Sudafed available right there on the shelf, where any mortal can buy it. Guess who's getting all of my allergy med business for the forseeable future...

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First, it was about 20 years back, on the west coast that meth made it's appearance. There hasn't been much meth trafficking in New England, and no one is terribly sure why- the major suppliers are come in from the West and South, and the law enforcement community has been waiting for it for a few years now, but there just hasn't been much in the way of usage here. (This is not the case in Minnesota, and cinfused the hell out of when meth was described in my Substance Abuse class as "the next big thing." Next? It's been a problem in Minnesota for voer a decade now.) The theory put forth two weeks ago by Dr. A, who runs one of the big testing labs in Boston is that meth runs 6x the cost of heroin around here. If you need a hit of something, you're going to be a little frugal about it.

Personally, I feel the problem is less "ZOMG they're making drugs!" than it is that meth labs are a major hazard to the house they're in, and everything around them. The fumes are bad for everyone, and it's not terribly uncommon for the lab to explode in a most over-dramatic manner. However, msot meth that's being moved around the country are being made in superlabs that have gone through several cycles of different ways to get ephinephren and pseudoephinephrine- using smurfs to buy out entire counties of sudafed is exspensive and inefficent.

That said, I don't like being looked at like a potential criminal because I have a cold. I don't want to have to give out information because my sinus are clogged up, and I think there has to be better way than this. I am not sure what it is, but since your local, somewhat pissy pharmacy is not taking infomration, it's a sign that Walgreens was doing this on their own, and not because a state law is requiring them to.

It is a state law in Illinois, and I believe in other places. Perhaps because Walgreen's is a national chain, they've instituted it as a national policy, rather than try to deal with different regulations in different places?

Very likely. A lot of chains also decided to start doing the database thing on their own.

On the bright side, the pharmaceutical companies are furious about this, and I have a small soft spot in my heart for anything that pisses them off.

I, too, rely on Sudafed, and I was pretty angry about the whole restriction business. Then the other day I had lunch with a friend of mine who is a lawyer for the Illinois Board of Education, and who recently joined the committee that is essentially responsible for psuedoephedrine restriction in Illinois. She said the effect of this restriction has been tremendous. There are a lot fewer meth labs, they're seeing a lot fewer meth addicts. Meth addiction has always been a terrible problem in Illinois, and while it hasn't gone away (after all, people can always go out of state/country to get unlimited amounts of pseudoephedrine if need be), the restrictions have made it a lot harder to produce cheap meth.

My friend also relies on Sudafed, and resents having to provide that much information every time she buys it. But she reluctantly provides it, because it's having such a positive effect on public health.

Food for thought, anyway.

it's having such a positive effect on public health.

Is it really? Are the people who used to use meth all "clean" now, or have they just gone on to more currently-accessible drugs?

Meth has a much more negative effect on the human body than most other illegal drugs (if not all).

This website compares the effects of meth with cocaine, and it;s consistant with what I've learned over the years.

Oregon has claimed that over 50% of new arresstees are meth addicts, and some astronomical percentage of property crime are related to meth.

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Well, first note Tamarinne's comment.

it cuts down on the number of small labs- if you can't get the main ingredient, then you can't make the stuff. As noted before, "smurfing" (sending out a small army of people to get their allottment) is inefficent and exspensive. The superlabs are getting their supply from somewhere else (I'm not sure where now- Mexico is cutting off the supply) but they're far away from population centers. Kitchen labs are not so polite, and kitchen labs tend to get their ephedrine supply from drug stores.

As I said before, I don't like regulating the crap out of sudafed. But there are legitimate points to the arguement. Just keep that in mind.

I don't know. Fewer meth labs probably means fewer new meth addicts, but that's not a guarantee either - and like with existing meth addicts, someone who might have become a meth addict might shop around and decide to become a heroin addict instead.

At least there are fewer exploding meth labs - and that seems like an unmitigated good thing to me. :)

OK, as much as I like recreational explosions, I can agree that unplanned ones are a Bad Thing :-)

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It's not a moral panic.

At base, it *is* a moral panic. If meth was treated like, say, alcohol, then its hazardous production would be centralized, regulated, and a hell of a lot less hazardous.

The problems your area is having are real and serious problems. But the War On Some Drugs is what caused those problems in the first place.

I get fewer problems from it than Sudafed.

Well, that's good for you, and for others who benefit. But for many people (including both me and my wife), it's very hard to find effective drugs, so that "new and improved" usually means "no longer effective".

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Thanks for the clarification, and the information.

Sometimes, the drug companies go with the easy route, and don't bother looking at alternatives until something forces their hand.

*sheepish* Well, yeah, me too. I so often am disappointed when I try new medications that I get out of the habit of doing so. I probably should give "the new stuff" at least one actual trial before dismissing it out of hand :-s

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In England aspirin and acetaminophen (called paracetamol there) are packed in little individual pill blister packs, and quantity is restricted. I think it's supposed to prevent suicide (?) I know a Brit who was in NYC for a conference and instead of souvenirs bought 500 pill bottles of aspirin instead.

I was reading an article just this morning, about the european solution to Drug Prohibition; you might find it interesting. It's below.

Meanwhile, I think you shouldn't have to provide ID for an over-the-counter drug. Definitely boycott the store.

Thanks for the article!

Sadly, I can't really boycott them completely. As mentioned in the original post, the only local alternative for prescriptions is Much Worse. And that's actually true of a number of goods (almost no one else in the neighborhood carries 2-liter Cokes, for instance). But I'm definitely boycotting their Sudafed, and will try and give them less business in general.

Sympathies. My mother is in much the same boat...

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