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Is a Meth House Coming to Your Neighborhood Soon?

How public attitudes, big pharma and medical insurers contribute to the continuing rise of meth labs.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Netfalls - Remy Musser


The following first appeared in The Fix. Also on TheFix.com:  Sober as a U.S. Drug CzarSweet Necessity: The Extent and Perils of Sugar AddictionHow's Your Mental Health? Take a Quiz and Find Out

Nearly every day in America, a meth lab is raided. Lonnie Dawson of Louisville, Kentucky will never forget the images of his neighbors being dragged out of their house screaming as they were arrested for cooking meth. Dawson referred to his former neighbors' house as a “shake and bake” lab, noting that they would sometimes create small batches of meth by mixing over-the-counter decongestant pseudoephedrine found in many cold remedies with some other substances, and with the aid of plastic two-liter soft drink bottles. “I figured something like that was going on over there. The windows were almost always open, even in January when it snowed. Something was really off with those damn people,” said Dawson.

“This is scary to me,” said Dawson. “Just imagine if folks who do coke (cocaine) or heroin knew how to cook up the recipe themselves? That's what so damn scary about this meth situation. The addicts know how to set up shop and create it on their own. The stuff they need is sold right over the counter.”

Police officers nationwide have ranked methamphetamine as  the number one drug they confront on a regular basis, even more so than heroin, marijuana and cocaine. The addictive and destructive to mind and body dangers of methamphetamine have given rise to numerous solution attempts around the country.

Methamphetamine (or meth) is known for being highly addictive and longer-lasting than most other drugs. It's cheap and easy to create by using household chemicals and pseudoephedrine from cold medicine. In fact, there are many secret meth labs in homes all across America.

Meth, as it happens, is dangerous to make. It puts its makers in peril along with their home residents and neighbors because of potential explosions, fires, toxic waste and hazardous fumes. “I'm really pissed off about this,” said Dawson. “They had a senior citizen and kids living in there. It's bad enough to endanger yourself, but old people and little kids? Come on, man.”

According to  www.meth.us.com, the percentage of meth users nationwide cannot be calculated as of yet. However, according to federal estimates, 12 million Americans have given the drug a try and 1.5 million use meth regularly. Some surveys suggest it is the leading drug of choice in the eastern half of the U.S.

Authorities have identified over-the-counter pseudoephedrine as a key ingredient in the meth-manufacturing recipe. It can be found in the following drugstore cold remedies: Chlor Trimeton Nasal Decongestant, Contac Cold, Drixoral Decongestant Non-Drowsy, Elixsure Decongestant, Entex, Genaphed, Kid Kare Drops, Nasofed, Seudotabs, Silfedrine, Sudafed, Sudafed 12-Hour, Sudafed 24-Hour, Sudafed Children's Nasal Decongestant, Sudodrin, SudoGest, SudoGest 12 Hour, Suphedrin, Triaminic Softchews Allergy Congestion, and Unifed.

The reality that this drugstore product can be so easily obtained by meth labs has touched off a national contest of will and political power between important elements of society.

As one example, in 2012 The Consumer Healthcare Products Association in Oklahoma, a trade group for makers of over-the-counter medicine, succeeded in lobbying and PR efforts against reformer and police attempts to require prescriptions for any product containing pseudoephedrine. They had little opposition from consumer advocates. "We believe that requiring a prescription for these medicines containing pseudoephedrine will not solve this problem, but will only place new costs and access restrictions on law abiding Oklahomans who rely on these medicines for relief,"  said association spokeswoman Elizabeth Funderburk. "We have a shared goal in making sure these medicines do not end up in the hands of criminals, but we believe law abiding citizens should not be forced to bear the burden of a prescription mandate."