The state’s drug czar says a leveling off of the number of meth labs in the state should be incentive to create more control over the sale of one of the key ingredients in the illegal drug. Gary Kendell, Director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, says after years of a steady decline in numbers, meth lab numbers may’ve increased last year.
Kendell says preliminary records show 174 meth labs were found in Iowa last year, just four less than in 2007. He says the numbers typically lag a little, so the final numbers could show an increase. "That’s troubling to us, because that’s first year since we passed the pseudoephedrine restrictions, that we’ve had an increase in lab," Kendell says.
Pseudoephedrine is an ingredient in many cold medications and the law now restricts the amount that can be purchased at one time, and requires people to sign their names when buying drugs containing it. Kendell says though, "smurfing" or people going from store to store to buy their limit of the medications containing pseudoephedrine, has increased.
Kendell says they’ve been hearing about the "smurfing" on the local level and now it’s showing up in the data on meth labs. He says if the state isn’t vigilant, it will see a "significant resurgence" in the number of meth labs. Kendell will ask legislators again to authorize an electronic system that links stores and lets them know when pseudoephedrine is purchased.
Kendell says that would let one pharmacy know if someone wanted to purchase their limit of pseudoephedrine, that the person had already purchased the limit at another store. That would prevent the person from going from store to store to purchase enough of the ingredient to cook up a batch of meth.
Kendell says federal officials have secured the money for the system in the stimulus package that’s expected to be signed by the new president. He says the state legislature needs to approve the issue to make reporting the pseudoephedrine sales mandatory.
He says they’ve done a voluntary pilot program in Boone and Story County, but says that has not worked well as some pharmacies have not participated. The system won approval from the Iowa House last year, but died in the Senate. Kendell says he hopes the new meth lab numbers will do a better job of showing the need for the system.
The Iowa Department of Public Health reports the number of Iowans seeking treatment primarily for meth use has decreased over the last four years, but meth still was the third most frequently abused drug in the state in 2008.