Column: A need to fight meth

By Craig Colbrook

In her column this week, my fellow columnist Jenette Sturges criticized the Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act (MPCA) and one of its sponsors, state representative Naomi Jakobsson. Sturges claimed the MPCA restricted cold medicine too much, and was responding to something that wasn’t a very big problem. I think, however, that meth is a tremendous problem in Illinois, and we need actions like the MPCA to fight it.

Of course, I also think journalism dies a little every time DI columnists waste time by talking about each other, so this is not going to be a fun column for me.

Nonetheless, meth is growing in Illinois. We here at the University might not see it as much, but we’ve got easier ways to kill brain cells. According to the Attorney General’s website, the State Police seized 666 meth labs in 2001. In 2003, they seized 971. And since these numbers only reflect the work of the state police, there is most likely more labs that have been busted by other agencies.

But what’s more disturbing than the numbers, is the fact that the labs can be anywhere – someone’s apartment, your neighbor’s garage, a house with kids in it, whatever. You can’t predict where a meth lab will be (though I had a pretty good idea just by talking to guys in my high school industrial design class).

You can’t just let the labs stay open. As Jenette noted, they’re basically bombs with windows. When they blow up, they can take out neighbors, the kids and even police who have raided the place. Meth dealers aren’t the only victims of their own stupidity.

It takes a lot of time and manpower, however, to fight meth. You need multiple officers with specialized training and multiple weeks just to dismantle one lab. That’s why meth has absolutely ravaged so many small towns in Illinois – it’s sucked up all the resources. Police are too busy working on meth crimes to do anything else.

So the police have to fight meth, but if they wait until it’s already out there, they can’t fight anything else. Of course, if the size of the threat was justification for harsh regulations, I’d be wearing an “I heart the Patriot Act” t-shirt. I don’t think, however, that the MPCA is that harsh. The only other way to fight meth is stop it at its source – that’s where the cold medicine comes in.

First of all, it only targets one kind of cold pill, the kind with Pseudoephedrine . That’s because PSE is the essential ingredient in meth. It’s also pretty common in things like Sudafed, but it’s not the only cold remedy out there.

Besides, the restriction on PSE isn’t even that much. Under the MPCA, a person can only buy 7500 milligrams of PSE in a month, and according to my box of Drixoral (which contains PSE), the human body should only have 7200 milligrams in a month. (And yes, I often base my columns off what I can read on boxes in my room.)

And sure, you can order more than that online, or go store-to-store, or possibly even make meth with less than that amount of PSE. It’s going to be a lot harder, though, and if you’re the type of guy that thinks about turning your garage into a meth lab, you’re probably not that dedicated.

So, I have to applaud Naomi Jakobsson for co-sponsoring this bill and the General Assembly for passing it. (I know, I know, liberals applauding Democrats, what is the world coming to?) I’m glad they see that we can’t wait until meth is as bad as cocaine to start fighting it.

Then again, maybe I’m just biased. After all, I’ve always been more of a DayQuil kind of guy then a Sudafed type.

Craig Colbrook is a senior in Communications and was an intern for Naomi Jakobsson last fall. His column appears every Friday. He can be reached at [email protected]