You may have seen from my previous articles that ephedrine was frequently mentioned in the mainstream media these last days, due to recent bills which will further restrict the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine for asthma, cold and allergy treatments in several US states.
Ephedrine has never been so famous
Newspapers, magazines, even TV news… many media are currently publishing about ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which have never been so famous since the FDA ban. This special attention is coming from the conjunction of two factors:
- First the exceptional allergy season this year, which started earlier than usual and will probably end later, from February to June. The peak of the allergy season is still to come but people already suffered a lot and many say that they can’t get by without ephedrine…
- … Neither can people who cook meth! This is the reason why several Houses of Representatives have just approved bills in order to control the sale of ephedrine through real-time tracking NPLEX (National Precursor Log Exchange) or by declaring ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as prescription drugs; but as you can guess, the last option, if chosen, would be very unpopular.
Sales of ephedrine pose a dilemma for US politicians
In fact, US politicians in charge of this problem are facing a real dilemma, as they are caught between the need to control ephedrine used as precursor of methamphetamine, and the fact that people would definitely not appreciate to consult their doctor for asthma, cold, flu or allergy, when they were used to buy their cheap treatments based on ephedrine over the counter in convenience stores or in worst cases, behind the counter in pharmacies.
This last argument is very strong in the view of politicians: in the current context of debate about health-care reform, it would appear inadequate to adopt the “Ephedrine Rx measure” and this probably should influence the choice of politician representatives in favor of the NPLEX tracking system. But laws are not voted yet, and law enforcement agents are currently doing their best efforts to push the option of ephedrine as prescription-only drug: cops believe that NPLEX doesn’t work, they are convinced that a tracking system would not stop the development of meth labs – at least based on their own experience in most states where the NPLEX tracking system is already in place.
So the dilemma remains, between new laws which would place an excessive burden on law-abiding citizens due to a minority of drugs addicts, or new laws which would not prevent meth cooks to get their meth precursors in convenience stores or pharmacies, for instance if they use enough smurfers paid a few dollars to purchase ephedrine under the monthly limit.
It would not be the first time that rules, laws or procedures have to be put in place and obeyed by all just because a minority of persons is causing a problem. This reminds me of a funny case, of course out of proportion with regards to state bills, but quite representative anyway. Let me tell you this short story.
Punish all for one
It was during my first job, quite a long time ago now. We were usually having lunch at the company canteen, and one day the canteen manager heard that somebody was hiding food under napkins on his tray before going to the checkout! This turned into a kind of spy movie when the manager tried to catch the thief in the act, but no way 🙂 An easy way to stop him would have been to control his tray at the checkout, but maybe that was considered as too easy? Anyway, instead of that, the canteen manager came up with a smart idea that I consider as a perfect illustration of a stupid law: he decided that napkins were the cause of this problem because they were used to hide food! Hence his decision to put all napkins behind the checkout, only accessible after payment… As a consequence all people had then to hold their tray with one hand while trying to grab napkins, and as you can guess, many meals ended on the floor… The canteen staff had then to clean up the mess several times per day, thus delay, anger etc. This procedure had been decided and imposed upon all people in order to solve a problem caused by one person!
In the case of ephedrine, you see the parallel of course: the current bills will probably force law-abiding people with asthma, flu or allergy to lose time and money to get their medicine because of a minority of drug addicts, who will always find a way around to cook meth.
So goes life…
By Mike Budd
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