Despite new laws regulating the sale of pharmacy products used to make it, methamphetamine production continues in small labs around Tennessee and elsewhere in the country, officials said.
This is one of the findings of a recent report by the comptroller's office in Tennessee. The report details attempts to control access to legal products sold at pharmacies and drug stores that are used to create the drug.
Pseudoephedrine is the most common of the so-called "precursor" products used to manufacture the drug, but it is an ingredient in many over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies, officials said. The report cautions that the relatively short history of precursor control policies and the limitations of available crime and drug use data make it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of control laws on the production of meth.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation to implement an electronic tracking system to limit the quantities of precursor products that can be purchased by individuals in 2011. The National Precursor Log Exchange, known as NPLEx, was chosen over a more restrictive requirement that people obtain prescriptions from doctors for precursors. The legislation included a directive that the comptroller's office conduct this study and issue this report, which found that activity in small labs is prevalent in Tennessee and some other southern and midwestern states, despite the implementation of the precursor sales limitations and the enhanced electronic tracking system.
Law enforcement agents in Tennessee attribute the increase in meth lab incidents to the ability of meth producers to work around the policies. Some states, such as Mississippi and Missouri, chose the prescription-only legislation over the electronic tracking system and saw a decline in meth lab incidents in the following years. However, other factors may have contributed to the decline, as not all states that saw declines have the prescription-only policy for meth precursors in place.
The report also outlines several factors for policymakers to consider when debating a control policy change.
To read the full report, click here.
Approximately 10 percent of adult Tennesseans purchased pharmacy precursors to methamphetamine from January through June 2012.