Giving pseudoephedrine abuse the cold shoulder
Session is halfway complete, and legislators have been pulling some long nights in order to consider all of the possible ways to improve our Hoosier state. In order to stay alive and advance to the Senate, every one of our bills had to pass the House by the end of the day on Feb. 2. The House moved 116 pieces of legislation to the Senate for consideration.
Earlier this week, we passed a pair of bills dealing with methamphetamine, and what a huge problem meth labs have become in our state, particularly for Hoosiers in southern Indiana. Our state has the embarrassing distinction of leading the country for the third consecutive year in meth lab incidents.
We cannot allow this scourge to continue to endanger communities anymore. Meth usage and addiction are terrible. But meth production is even worse, wreaking havoc and imposing costs. Meth labs are prone to fires and explosions, but they always leave behind hazardous contamination. For any home, hotel room or apartment to be habitable again, it must undergo costly professional decontamination. All too often meth houses remain abandoned, blighting neighborhoods and lowering property values. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management estimates meth labs annually cost Hoosier property owners $32 million. The human costs are more staggering: In 2014, 382 Hoosier children were removed from meth labs and placed in foster homes.
Our goal in crafting legislation this year was to eradicate meth labs by keeping the precursor ingredients out of the hands of bad guys while not overly encumbering law-abiding citizens.
The huge meth problem in southern Indiana stems from the fact that meth ingredients are easy to obtain. Meth cooks can go to almost any store and purchase everything they need to make meth, including pseudoephedrine (PSE), which is one type of cold medicine. They also hire so-called “smurfs” to buy PSE from pharmacies in order to work around Indiana’s individual purchase limits. HB 1390 carefully balances legitimate consumer access with commonsense measures to keep PSE out of the hands of meth cooks. In order to obtain PSE, you will not need a prescription if you have an established relationship with a pharmacy, are willing to use tamper-resistant PSE formulations or accept a smaller package of PSE. Leaning on the professional knowledge of pharmacists and their consultation with patients, HB 1390 makes acquiring large amounts of PSE for the purpose of making meth or selling to meth cooks considerably harder. It’s a giant step in the right direction.
House Bill 1157 complements these efforts to restrict meth cooks’ access to PSE. If enacted, drug felons would need a prescription to both purchase and possess PSE. Electronic tracking would issue “stop sale” alerts to pharmacies when a drug felon attempts to buy PSE. Like HB 1390, this bill keeps PSE accessible to law-abiding Hoosiers while putting reasonable restrictions on known drug offenders.
These bills do not constrain Hoosiers patients, instead they empower our local pharmacists and law enforcement to keep meth labs out of our communities. Of course we want to eradicate meth use and addiction, but the first step must be tackling the costly and dangerous labs. Our approach will make it extremely difficult for meth cooks to obtain the necessary ingredients.
Rep Bacon (R-Chandler) represents portions of Warrick, Pike, and Spencer counties.