Hard Times For Ephedrine, Due To Meth Labs “Exploding” Number

Did you hear the buzz about ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in the US these last days?

Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine used as allergy or cold medicine

US Cops Ask Politicians to Restrict the Sales of Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine

The reason is that several Houses of Representatives discussed new ways to restrict ephedrine for sale as allergy and cold medicines. If you ever had a doubt about the real reasons of the FDA ban on ephedrine, these recent developments should make it clear now: retrospectively, this ban really appears as the “dazzling display of hypocrisy” described by Time magazine, when more than 12 million Americans had to stop taking ephedrine due to questionable cases of adverse effects, when the main decision factor has always been in fact drugs control, ephedrine being unfortunately used as precursor of  methamphetamine.

The weird thing in that topic is that most states have already laws currently controlling the purchase of ephedrine (see our article about legality of ephedrine in the USA). Why another law? Apparently it’s not enough, and this time it’s not due to side effects endangering the health of the population 😉

The goal is clearly to restrict further sales of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in order to reduce their availability to “meth cooks” who found cheaper, quicker and easier to make their illegal drug in their “shake-and-bake” or “one-pot” methamphetamine labs, you know, the ones currently exploding in the country, in both senses of the word…

NPLEX or Prescription for Ephedrine?

The heart of the debate is whether ephedrine and pseudoephedrine should become prescription-only drugs, or should still be sold behind the counter but with real-time tracking through the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEX), blocking sales exceeding legal limits per month, all states included. NPLEX is already effective in 20 states.

Law enforcement officers are most of the time proponents of the prescription requirement, and they argue that it would prevent buying ephedrine for illegal reasons. Opponents refute that, saying that prescription laws in Mississippi and Oregon did not reduce the production of methamphetamine, that it would only increase costs and force people to take time off from work to visit their doctor for a very basic treatment for cold and allergy, which has little sense.

Proponents of prescription in Alabama defend their point, saying that many retail shops and convenience stores don’t collect purchasers’ data, explaining the lack of results.
Furthermore, prescription would prevent Mississippi residents coming to Alabama to buy ephedrine and pseudoephedrine: only the harmonization of prescription requirement would stop “smurfers” crossing state lines to get ephedrine.

The Current Bill for Alabama Is a Compromise

No prescription required but real-time tracking through NPLEX, and people from states requiring prescriptions to buy ephedrine and pseudoephedrine would need to present it to buy in Alabama. Also the legal amount of ephedrine for sale per month per person is reduced from 9 grams to 7.5 grams. Meth cooks must be desperate 😉

Other than Alabama, bills have also been approved in favor of the NPLEX in Ohio, Virginia and Missouri. No need to say that most Pharmacists Associations are not really happy with these bills, even if they say they are “neutral” on the proposed law.

As a conclusion, we are more than skeptic about these bills, as current laws have failed to stop the development of meth labs in the US. Most probably this is not linked to reducing the month legal quantity from 9 grams to 7.5 grams: it would be the case even if ephedrine and pseudoephedrine were totally illegal in all states, because other products would be imported as for other drugs than methamphetamine.

It’s a pity that a natural blessing like ephedrine, so useful for weight loss, can’t be used in some states  because of illegal use by a minority of drug addicts. Drugs are really a curse on society.

Even for cold and allergy, ephedrine has amazing lasting effects which make it hard to substitute, and offers a simple, inexpensive relief without having to support the burden of prescription, which will probably be the case in future due to meth drug addicts. Again, it’s a pity that the majority of people has always to pay the price for a minority.

Maybe a solution would be to follow the example of Missouri, where the bill made exceptions for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in liquid or gel-cap form, because these forms make it very difficult to use ephedrine as precursor, compared to the dry pill form.

By Mike Budd

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