Gov. Haley Barbour this year signed legislation that, starting July 1, requires a prescription for any product containing pseudoephedrine, which is commonly found in cold medications. It also is a key ingredient in methamphetamine.
The legislation was supported by law enforcement and other groups as a way to deal with the state's meth problem.
North Mississippi Narcotics Agent Lt. Paul Howell said that with meth-related cases nearly doubling those of other drugs this fiscal year, the law is needed to slow manufacturing of the highly addictive drug.
"We spend most of our time dealing with meth-related cases," said Howell. "It's a drug that isn't going away. No matter how many we take down, there are always more labs popping up. So we feel this legislation will help."
So does at least one pharmacist, who also thinks it will make his job easier in some respects.
"Now we no longer will have to police people who are wanting to buy this drug," said Jim Bain of Tupelo. "I know that most people buying pseudophedrine aren't getting it to make meth, but the ones who are using it for that purpose are the ones we hope the law deters."
Meth arrests have gone up significantly in recent years in Northeast Mississippi. Howell said in this fiscal year, which began in October 2009, meth-related cases have almost doubled those of marijuana and crack cocaine.
Agents have worked 487 meth cases, significantly more than their 283 marijuana and crack cases. Howell said this is the first year meth has nearly doubled other drug cases.
Last year, meth cases hit 466, whereas crack and marijuana together totaled 402. In 2006, meth cases were at 253 while crack and marijuana were at 631. Howell said the emergence of the easier-to-operate shake-and-bake meth labs is the likely reason for higher meth usage.
"It used to be that there were only a few people who knew how to cook meth and all the other dealers would have to buy from that person," said Howell. "Now anyone can put the stuff in a bottle, shake it up and wait for it to get ready."
Currently, anyone wanting to buy a medication containing pseudoephedrine must sign a list and is limited in the amount he or she can buy. People were getting around this restriction, Howell said, by recruiting others to buy it for them.
Under the new law, a person will need a doctor's prescription to get the medication.
"I think the law is going to be a good one," said Bain. "A lot of people are worried about the inconvenience they think will be caused by having to go to the doctor for these types of drugs now ... but if one young life is saved then to me it's worth the inconvenience."
In 2005, Oregon passed the same law and saw success. According to Lt. Col. Mike Perkins, commander of enforcement for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Oregon's meth labs have almost disappeared.
"So far this year Mississippi is leading all states in numbers of meth labs with almost 500," said Perkins. "And that's not per capita - we are actually leading by the numbers. So this law is going to hopefully cut those numbers down considerably. This law is very necessary to fight this drug.
"If cranberries were used to manufacture meth, we'd outlaw them, too."
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Drugs that will be included in the July 1 pseudophedrine prescription law: Advil Cold and Sinus, Aleve D, Bronkaid, Claritin D, Mucinex D, Nyquil D, Primatene, Sudafed, Tylenol Sinus Severe Cold and Zyrtec D.