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Meth Labs and Pseudoephedrine Legislation

Ok, I admit it. I have been fighting a cold. So the other day I decide I should get one of those toxic funny-flavored radioactive-colored medicines that promise to alleviate (pun intended) the symptoms. I go to the local pharmacy and before I know it I am giving them my driver’s licence number, my birthday, my underwear size and promising that my first-born will work night shifts for them. Given that I was a little under the weather, I think I might have given them the wrong size underwear, but nonetheless I managed to leave the store with a box of something in hand.

I mentioned before how regulations impact our privacy and access to apparently “regular” substances once they become a source material for meth labs. But I guess I was a little surprised by the lengths I had to go to in order to buy a box of something that used to be sitting out in the open. And I have to say this still seems like a good thing to me for two reasons:

  1. The stuff used for meth labs is generally pretty nasty, and so a little more oversight and control of who gets access and where the stuff goes actually makes some sense. For example, given all the horrible side-effects that exposure to stuff like methanol can cause (e.g. blindness and death) perhaps we should already have been more discriminate about keeping track of who is going through gallons of the stuff by spraying a fine mist through the streets where children play, no? I hate those moments when everyone looks at each other and says “Holy crap, look at that risk to reward ratio! Why wasn’t this horrible stuff regulated a long time ago?”
  2. You have to really, really want something to go through all the paperwork I did. It made a visit to the doctor’s office seem like a walk in the park. This surely cuts down on the casual user, or the user who does not have time to waste. Perhaps if they make the process slow enough people will be cured of their ailment just by taking the time to get the final phases…. Imagine calling your office and telling them “I’ll be out for the next few days so I can start the process for paperwork at the pharmacy on getting some cold and sinus medicine.” Don’t speed it up, slow it down. Or, when someone asks for your papers, choose a different (less toxic) product instead.
  3. It helps provide data for research on controls and externalities.

Ok, three reasons. I told you I was sick, right? Speaking of that last reason, I just noticed that the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Controls (OBNDDC — hard to say three times fast, eh? I hear that correct pronunciation of the acronym is now part of their sobriety test) has posted some interesting numbers on the rise (and apparent fall) of Meth labs. Their site suggests that HB 2176, which started controlling access to meth ingredients in April 2004, has led to a sharp decline in the number of meth lab seizures (down from approximately 1200 in 2003 to only 300 in 2005, with many non-operational). Impressive numbers, but what if locking down ingredients has just forced the criminals to making a different drug instead? Good deal, I say, and let’s hope they move to something less environmentally toxic (less risk and cost to law enforcement officers, neighborhoods, etc.).

By the way, here‘s a good explanation of the risks from windshield wiper fluid as well as an alternative home-brew recipe:

Commercial windshield wiper fluid is not a complex substance. There are three basic ingredients: water, a detergent and, to keep it from freezing, methyl alcohol or methanol. It’s the methanol that makes it dangerous. Methanol is corrosive and toxic, and can cause blindness or death if ingested. Like antifreeze, wiper fluid is also harmful to pets, should any be spilled on the ground.

Just the sort of thing you want to spray into the air at speed, right?

You can make a relatively benign washer fluid yourself with one part alcohol (pure alcohol, not isopropyl) and ammonia mixture and two parts water. If you use too much water, the mixture will freeze in the lines on cold days and destroy your washer pump. A further problem arises, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Ken Giles, if your homemade washer fluid is not properly labeled or stored in a childproof container. Do-it-yourselfers should take both precautions.

Er, ammonia doesn’t seem like much of a step away from toxicity and controlled substances. Destroy the pump? That’s a bit dramatic. What if it never gets below freezing in my area? Should methanol still be included by default in all fluid? Doesn’t make sense to me, given the risks with no/minimal reward.

Anyone have a recipe for non-toxic washer fluid or cold and sinus medicine?

Posted in Security.


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