Pseudoephedrine meds could become prescription only

Many cold and allergy medications contain pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used to make meth.
Many cold and allergy medications contain pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used to make meth.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – In an effort to fight the meth problem in the state, an Indiana House committee is considering making all medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine available by prescription only. They will discuss HB1248 in a hearing on Monday morning. It’s authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-District 52), who represents DeKalb County and portions of Steuben and Allen Counties. Rep. David Ober (R-District 82), who represents all of Noble County and portions of Allen, Elkhart, LaGrange and Whitley Counties, is the co-author.

Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient to make meth using the one-pot method, which is the most common way in Indiana.

“As long as you can follow a cake recipe, you can make this stuff. Out of any of the drugs out there, meth is the only one you can make yourself. It’s easy access,” Master Trooper Andy Smith, with the Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section, said. Smith has been on that team for nearly five years.

Currently cold and allergy medications with pseudoephedrine in them are kept behind the pharmacy counter and the customer has to show an ID and sign a logbook to buy it. Those names go into a computer database where police can see buying habits and target suspected meth users or cooks. There are also limits on how much pseudoephedrine can be purchased at one time.

“Every time we put a new law into effect, they find a way around it,” Smith said.”Many people have multiple fake IDs.”

Despite current law, meth labs are increasing every year. Smith said there are about 70 more labs in 2013 than there were in 2012 statewide. Last year, the state police said there were 1,808 labs busted in Indiana. Of those, 270 were in eleven counties in northeast Indiana (LaGrange, Steuben, Noble, DeKalb, Whitley, Allen, Huntington, Wells, Adams, Jay and Blackford Counties). Those added to St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall and Kosciusko Counties’ 169 labs, and northeast Indiana makes up 24 percent of all the labs in the state.

“We estimate that we only find less than five percent of the meth labs actually out there,” Smith said.

Smith said one reason meth is so prevalent in this part of the state is because meth is “the ideal drug for factory work.”

“It’s added energy. You don’t get tired. It’s like you’re Superman,” he said. “The problem is you eventually end up working for the drug instead of the drug working for you. You take it one time and you’re  hooked.”

When people are deep into their addictions, they tend to be transient and move from one friend or relative’s couch to another.

“We know a lot of the people out there, but the address we get may be where they stayed four addresses back,” Smith said.

The Indiana State Police Meth Suppression Section is working hard to combat meth in the state, but it’s a losing battle.

“We do the best we can, but it’s like sticking your finger in a dam that’s leaking. For every person we catch, there’s ten to a hundred we don’t know about,” Smith said.

It’s estimated that one meth cook will teach ten other people to make meth.

“Those ten teach another ten and then each of those ten teach another ten and it multiplies at a fast rate. That’s why we have such a huge problem in Indiana,” he said.

The one-pot method is also fast and easy.

“They can buy or steal everything they need in 15 to 20 minutes and within two to three hours have a finished product,” Smith explained. “It’s a highly addictive drug and more and more people every day get addicted. You take it once and you’re addicted, even though you may not know it for about a year.”

In 2014, Smith is once again expecting the meth numbers to go up.

“It’s an epidemic and nothing is going away any time soon unless we take a really good hard look at how to fix these problems,” he said.

Smaltz and Ober want to increase the penalties for possession of meth in addition to making pseudoephedrine-containing drugs prescription only. Other states, like Oregon and Mississippi, have required prescriptions for medications with pseudoephedrine and have seen meth numbers plummet.

“Within a two-year period, [Oregon] went from 540 labs to 20 statewide. Last year they had nine,” Smith said.

Top Ten Indiana Counties for Meth Labs in 2013:

1: Vanderburgh – 115 labs
2: Delaware – 109 labs
3: Noble – 66 labs
4: Allen – 64 labs
5: Elkhart – 63 labs
6: Monroe – 62 labs
7: Madison -61 labs
8: Miami – 49 labs
9: Bartholomew: 43 labs
10: Decatur – 41 labs11: DeKalb & Harrison – 35 labs each

Steuben County had 28 meth labs last year, according to a release on behalf of Smaltz and Ober.

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