Column: Meth: enemy of state and my nose

By Jenette Sturges

Your state representative and the police want to know about your stuffy nose.

Illinois house of representatives unanimously voted in favor of The Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act, sponsored by Naomi Jakobsson, D-103rd, on Oct. 26. Jakobsson claims the law will track down meth producers and keep them from purchasing large quantities of meth ingredients in Illinois by requiring any purchaser of products containing pseudoephedrine to present a photo ID and sign a logbook documenting the purchase.

The new law, which passed through the state senate and requires Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s signature, would place a limit on how much cold medicine a person could legally purchase in a 30-day period in an effort to prevent the manufacture of methamphetamines in home labs. Lawmakers contend that meth manufacture and usage is rampant because of the availability of ingredients, all of which are household products. The most important ingredient is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, found in most over-the-counter congestion medications, which have been placed behind check-out counters at most Illinois drugstores since January.

Unfortunately, the math isn’t adding up.

One meth recipe I found online only called for 1,800 mg, just 60 pills, of pseudophenedrine, well under the 7,500 mg limit proposed by the Illinois House bill. Thus it is still feasible, according to this recipe, to manufacture four batches – somewhere between 8-12 grams of meth – within the limits. It’s not exactly the 10 pounds of crystal meth that some Mexican operations are said to be able to manufacture daily, but it’s still a significant amount, retailing anywhere between $160 and $3,600. These measures also seem ridiculous considering how easy it is to purchase significant amounts of meth ingredients online from outside the United States.

Of course, they seem even more absurd when looking at the so-called meth crisis in our country.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there were 17,696 mentions of methamphetamine use in emergency room reports from all U.S. facilities in 2002. And while this seems like a lot, it’s far less than the nearly 200,000 mentions of cocaine use in the same year.

So why the huge fuss over meth when cocaine is obviously a much bigger threat? Meth is often portrayed as a suburban crisis that ravages entire middle-class communities. Few parents would assume their child could find cocaine, a big city drug, easier than meth, which could be cooked up next door.

More important, though, is the image of our Illinois representatives. Cocaine is manufactured in South America and smuggled across national boarders, far from the jurisdiction of Illinois. But every time you go to Walgreens now and ask for Sudafed, you will be reminded of your congressional representative protecting the neighborhood. It is a daily reminder of the lawmakers’ victory in the War on Drugs.

Never mind that cocaine use is still on the rise while meth use is actually going down, and that it is impossible to tell the number of people murdered or enslaved every year by international drug cartels. A meth lab next door just blew up, killing the moronic drug dealer inside. So politicians start a crusade against an invisible destructive force in their communities, making a sensationalist commotion about the killer next door and making it impossible for me to buy over-the-counter drugs without my ID. Not to mention that the government will now be logging every time I get the sniffles – an intrusion of privacy if I ever saw one.

Meanwhile, President Bush has taken the exact opposite approach and has countered fanatic politicians with the scientifically unsupported position that prevention of cannabis use, a supposed gateway drug, will prevent potential abusers from trying and becoming hooked on “hard” drugs such as meth. Really, all politicians have accomplished in this war on meth (or, in Bush’s case, silent peace with it) is to pull attention away from alcohol, cocaine, psychedelics and even nutmeg – not just for pie anymore.

But mostly, it’s just left me blowing my congested nose at politicians who have proved out of touch with reality they really are.

Jenette Sturges is a junior in LAS. Her column appears every Tuesday. She can be reached at [email protected]