WASHINGTON — The federal government is urging states to remove some over-the-counter drugs from store shelves, search for people who use multiple prescriptions for painkillers and target organizers of "rave" parties, as part of proposed crackdown on the abuse of man-made drugs.
The proposals are included in a "National Synthetic Drugs Action Plan" to be announced today in Missouri by White House anti-drug czar John Walters. The plan comes in response to the increased abuse of methamphetamine and painkillers such as Oxycontin, and the ongoing use of the hallucinogenic stimulant Ecstasy.
The plan calls for federal enforcement and treatment agencies to meet within 30 days to coordinate a strategy and then share it with the nation's governors, state legislators and 714 community anti-drug coalitions.
•Stronger state control on the ingredients that can be turned into methamphetamine, similar to a new Oklahoma law that allows only licensed pharmacists or pharmacy technicians to sell products containing non-prescription pseudoephedrine. The ingredient, which is common in decongestants that are sold on shelves, can be used to make "meth," a highly addictive stimulant.
Meth has become the most popular of a new wave of man-made drugs. The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 1.3 million people used it during the previous year; about 50% of the users were under 18 years old. And meth is easily made in "mom and pop" labs run out of hotel rooms, cars and homes throughout the country.
Under the Oklahoma law, for instance, cold and allergy drugs with meth-making ingredients must be kept behind the counter or in a locked cabinet. The purchaser must show identification and sign a written log. And customers are limited to a small supply. Pharmaceutical industry groups have objected to the law as too burdensome for both pharmacists and people afflicted with colds or allergies.
•Establishing programs to monitor the sales of prescription drugs in an effort to catch people who use multiple prescriptions to get narcotic painkillers, like Oxycontin, which are highly addictive.
•Local police and federal law enforcement officers to target operators and promoters of "raves," the popular underground electronic music parties that have been linked to use of the stimulant Ecstasy, which is a powerful neurotoxin that can result in brain damage with continued use.
The plan suggests legislation that would make it a federal crime to sell imitation controlled substances. It also urges federal agencies to pursue laws that would give them authority to regulate the sale and import of bulk chemicals that can be turned into drugs.