Dispatches from the Doomed War on Pseudoephedrine
I have written before about the sad state of affairs that is our current policy toward pseudoephedrine. If you are late to this controversy or have simply avoided getting a cold these many years, here’s a refresher: in 2006, our government decided that because certain cold and flu medications contained an ingredient that was used to manufacture methamphetamine, those cold and flu medications should become much harder to get. Soon enough bill became law, and today you must locate a pharmacist and submit to a license inspection before you can walk away with a salve for the sniffles.
Besides the grand inconvenience of this policy, there is a larger problem: it’s not working. Meth abuse is up, not down. As an article in Forbes recently stated:
The war on meth, including collateral damage to people with colds, has been stuck at a stalemate. Abuse rates initially dropped by two-thirds after the pseudoephedrine regulations went into effect. But over the last three years abuse is trending back up again toward pre-2006 levels. Meth users now buy drugs imported illegally from Mexico, according to a recent report in The Economist. The post-Sudafed meth is more refined (rising from 50% purity to 80% since 2006) and thus more addictive and dangerous. The temporary drop after 2006 is evidence that it took some time for new suppliers to emerge–not that abuse is down.
As an ENT in Los Angeles who sees plenty of patients suffering with respiratory problems, I find it somewhat galling that my patients are automatically considered potential Breaking Bad walks-on every time they come down with post-nasal drip. Sadly it doesn’t look as if this policy is set to change anytime soon. My advice: try to get sick during pharmacy hours, and contact a Los Angeles sinus specialist if you need better treatment.