Sunday, July 31, 2005

Oregon anti-meth law would require prescriptions


Oregon anti-meth law would require prescriptions

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A bill passed by lawmakers on Saturday would make Oregon the first U.S. state to require a doctor's prescription for cold medicines containing an ingredient that can be used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine.

"We hope this will reduce the supply" of meth, Democratic state Sen. Ginny Burdick told Reuters after the Senate passed the bill.

Oregon's House of Representatives approved the measure earlier this month and Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski was expected to sign it.

The bill has widespread support, but critics say it would hurt people without medical insurance who cannot afford to go to a doctor for a cold or an allergy.

Although much of the nation's meth supply is produced in large labs in Mexico, the addictive drug can be made in smaller labs with easily available equipment and ingredients, including cold or allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said recently that meth had surpassed marijuana as the drug posing the greatest danger to the nation's children.

The U.S. Congress is considering a bill that would move medicines containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, NyQuil, and Tylenol Cold, behind pharmacy counters and limit how much one person can buy to 7.5 grams a month -- the equivalent of roughly 250 30-milligram tablets.

Customers also would be required to show a photo identification and sign a log.

It is modeled after an Oklahoma law, copied by at least a dozen other states, that authorities say has resulted in a large drop in meth labs seized by police.

The bills passed by the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives also would toughen penalties for meth-related crimes.

Lt. Brian Schmautz of the Portland Police Bureau said it was "naive to think that this will solve the meth problem."

But he said the bill would likely reduce the number of local labs and thus the property contamination, fires and danger to children sometimes found in homes with meth labs.

Oregon had the highest per-capita rate of treatment admissions for meth in the United States in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

More than 326 of every 100,000 Oregonians sought treatment for meth addiction, and more Oregonians sought treatment for meth addiction than any other drug except alcohol, according to the data.