Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

June 12, 2014

OUR VIEW: Meth problem demands action

GLASGOW — It was with no glee that we published in Thursday’s edition yet another headline about Barren County’s dubious distinction as one of Kentucky’s top methamphetamine-producing counties. The ranking – much like the drug itself – is a blight on our community.

We all know this. The conversation has been ongoing for years. We repeatedly talk about the horrifying effects of meth abuse, of the dangers inherent in its manufacture, of the burden on law enforcement, the courts and jails. These concepts focus on meth’s aftermath, however. If we’re serious about trying to heal this festering wound on our county, we’ve got to get serious about cutting off the head of the snake.

Pseudoephedrine is the constant in meth makers’ ever-evolving methods. Barren County’s meth industry isn’t that of “Breaking Bad’s” fictional world of super labs and genius, rogue chemists. By comparison, local manufacturing of meth is crude and rudimentary – and as Shannon White, hazardous materials coordinator for Glasgow-Barren County Emergency Management, said during a meeting this week of Emergency Management Emergency Support Functions, meth isn’t possible without pseudoephedrine.

So why does pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter nasal decongestant, remain so freely available, despite law enforcement’s repeated leanings on state lawmakers to make the substance prescription-only? Support for a prescription-only law is nearly unanimous among drug task force members, who deal directly with the problem as much as anyone.  Meanwhile, the effect of other measures limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can buy have been muted, at best.

The answer, of course, is money. Nationally, the sale of pseudoephedrine pulls in millions upon millions for pharmaceutical companies, and those dollars weigh heavily in legislative chambers. Opponents of prescription-only plans point out the increased hassle and cost of obtaining prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, ignoring that taxpayers are already funding expensive public efforts to deal with meth’s damage to our communities.

So, the scourge simply persists: For example, in 2013, the Barren-Edmonson-Allen Drug Task Force cleaned up 54 roadside and active meth labs; so far in 2014, the task force has already cleaned up 48, according to Director Jeff Scruggs. Nothing is changing until we stop shrugging our shoulders and commit to taking pseudoephedrine out of the hands of those who wish to abuse it.

The prescription-only plan isn’t foolproof – there will always be unscrupulous doctors who can be persuaded to write a prescription for anything – but we’re convinced it’s the best approach to stamping out a harmful, heartbreaking problem.

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