HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Area Stores Pull Cold Medicine To Combat Meth Use
Pubdate: Wed, 01 Sep 2004
Source: Daily Home, The (Talladega,  AL)
Copyright: 2004 Consolidated Publishing
Author: Blair Hadley
Note:  also listed as contact
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Food World pharmacist Lewis Osgatharp stands in front of a sign
informing customers they will not be able to purchase large amounts of
medicine containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine, the main
ingredient used in making the illegal stimulant crystal
methamphetamine. "Jerry Martin/The Daily Home" Following a new state
law, pharmacies and grocery stores across the state have been pulling
boxes of medicine containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine, the
main ingredient used in bootleg laboratories to manufacture the
illegal drug crystal methamphetamine. The measure has been put in
place in an attempt to crack down on the growing wave of crystal
methamphetamine (meth) abuse across Alabama, said Jason Murray,
commander of the Talladega County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force.

Murray said the problem in Talladega County alone is

"I would say that if I didn't have anything else to do but concentrate
my efforts on restricting meth labs we could work three or four a
week," Murray said. "When you figure if we could work three or for a
week - there's 52 weeks in a year. That makes 500 plus labs a year.
There is not a day that goes by that we don't get a call about
somebody cooking meth."

Murray said that one of the biggest problems in controlling the
manufacture of the drug is that it is so easy to make, and just as
easy to get the ingredients.

"These are not scientists that are making this stuff," he said. "These
are just regular Joes out there. They get the recipes off the
Internet. Nowadays just about anybody can do their own (meth) cooks."

Murray said another problem facing the task force is that the time
that must be invested in busting a meth lab puts a serious strain on
the resources of the organization.

"Our problem is with meth cooks, it's not like working a crack dealer
or a crack house or cocaine or marijuana," he said. "With those you
can do a search and go in there and figure 2 or 3 hours for the
search. Meth investigation is very time consuming. With a meth
investigation you can figure 8 hours just to clean it up, if there's
someone available. It's all toxic materials that have to be cleaned up
and disposed of."

Murray said he hopes that by cutting off the supply lines of the
primary ingredient they can begin to get the upper hand in getting
things back under control. He also said the measure may be ineffective
because people often work in groups to get the amount they need by
pooling their supply of pseudoephedrine.

"They're not just staying in Talladega County buying their supplies,"
Murray said. "They go all over the place to purchase the materials.
The best thing that merchants can do is if they've got a steady stream
of people coming in buying the maximum number of medicine and cases of
lighter fluid and gas-line antifreeze (other ingredients used in meth
labs) - the best thing they could do is call us."

Pharmacists around the region say they plan to do all they can to stop
the sale of pseudoephedrine to people who intend to abuse it.

Mark Tow, director of pharmacies for Bruno's Supermarkets, which also
owns and operates Food World in Talladega, said the move to restrict
the sale of pseudoephedrine is critical in fighting the problem.

"We've already lost law enforcement agents here and in other states,
so I think it's time that we look at the regulations in general,
pharmacists included, and do our best to control the use of this
product," Tow said. "It's important to keep it out of the hands of
those that want to create something bad out of it."

Sal Shunnara, a pharmacist at Rite Aid in Sylacauga, said he is glad
to see the drugs behind the counter for a number of reasons, the most
important of which is because people were simply stealing whole
shelves of the drug in broad daylight.

"The word is 'sweeping,' Shunnara said. "They carry in a big shopping
bag and they just put their arm up behind the shelf and sweep the
entire shelf into the bag. The reason we have a lot of people sweeping
it - they know exactly when we have a warehouse order, and then the
next day it's gone. These guys are very sneaky. You go to the shelf to
help a customer, and there's none there, and you know yesterday you
got 12 boxes and you know you don't sell 12 boxes in a day."

Pell City Kmart pharmacist Karen Wesson said thefts of the drug were
common in her store as well.

"It's not uncommon for security to find eight, 12 or 24 empty boxes
stuffed somewhere in the store," Wesson said. "I had one guy come in
and I told him we didn't even sell it because we were completely out
of it."

Murray, commander of the task force since the beginning of August,
said that although the task force has only busted between 10 and 15
labs this year, he expected that to change under his leadership.

"I don't know if the task force has actively worked meth labs in the
past, but we will be actively going after meth cooks from this point
on," he said. "I think it has reached epidemic proportion statewide,
and Talladega County is no different. We are a very rural county, and
it makes it easier for people to have meth labs because we are such a
rural county. These people are using meth and they're not getting it
from Atlanta or Birmingham. They're getting it locally."

The Talladega County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force is a
multi-agency task force headed by the Talladega County District
Attorney's Office, which employs members of police from all the
municipalities in Talladega County as well as the Sheriff's Department.
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