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  1. Alfa
    NEW WAR ON DRUGS FOUGHT IN GROCERY STORES

    THE next battle in the war against illegal drugs could well be waged
    in grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.

    In the United States, 20 per cent of the supply of methamphetamine is
    made by household operations that acquire their main ingredients from
    over-the-counter drugs, such as cold medicines and decongestants,
    according to Gerry Harrington, a spokesman for the National Drug
    Manufacturers Association of Canada.

    Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is highly addictive and has become
    the drug of choice in parts of Canada and the United States.

    The trend to small-scale operations has led to a rash of
    smash-and-grabs where drug makers steal large quantities of cold
    medicine and then "cook it" in clandestine labs, Harrington said.

    And in a technique known as smurfing, addicts accompanied by several
    buddies or young children drive from store to store, buying small
    quantities of medicine to avoid suspicion, he said.

    About 500 meth labs were uncovered last year in Oregon alone, compared
    to just 30 in all of Canada, Harrington said. "It's just a matter of
    time before we see it get out of hand here," he said.

    The key ingredient in meth is ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, legal
    chemicals that are commonly found in cold medicines, but which have a
    wide variety of uses, including in manufacturing processes.

    (Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are closely related drugs with actions
    and side effects similar to adrenaline.)

    In New Zealand, some store owners have called for a ban on the sale of
    cold medicines because of a rise in the numbers of burglaries and break-ins.

    But Harrington said banning such medicines would deny Canadians access
    to drugs they want and need.

    Instead, a national education program will help employees identify
    suspicious purchases of over-the-counter drugs.

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